Civil forfeiture has a history dating back several hundred years, with roots in British maritime law to the British Navigation Acts around the middle 1600s. In many respects, it is an embedded feature of the criminal justice system. Drunk drivers lose their cars. Drug dealers lose their cash & valuables. But, in the past few years, the number of critics has grown.
In some states, civil forfeiture can occur even if there is not a conviction. Opposition to forfeiture without a conviction is particularly controversial. Seventy percent (69.9%) of Oklahoma’s likely-voters supported legislation that would allow law enforcement only to keep confiscated property when a criminal conviction is achieved. Results varied only slightly based on party affiliation, with 58 percent of Republicans strongly supporting the legislation, 53 percent of Democrats, and half of all Independents. Support was also seen among both liberals and conservatives, with 59 percent strong support among those who identified themselves as “very liberal,” and 72 percent among those who identified themselves as “very conservative.”
More recently, in a statewide poll done for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Baselice & Associates asked 922 registered Texas voters (+/- 3.2% margin of error) from Jan. 22 to 29, 2017, the following question: “Civil asset forfeiture is when the state or federal government takes and keeps a person’s property without necessarily charging them with any criminal behavior. Should the state or federal government be allowed to take and keep a person’s property without a criminal conviction?”
Based on the results, an overwhelming majority of Texan voters don’t believe the state or federal government should be allowed to take and keep a person’s property without a criminal conviction. Below are the results of the poll, as well as crosstabs and the questions asked of voters: