55 Criminal Justice Leaders Sign Brief Urging Court to Strike Down Indiana Civil Asset Forfeiture System 

By Praniti Gulyani 

CHICAGO, IL – It’s unfair that “Indiana’s civil asset forfeiture system allows for the appointment of private attorneys to prosecute civil asset forfeiture cases for which they are paid on a contingency-fee basis,” according to criminal justice leaders in an amicus brief here before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Recognizing the unfairness of the system, and how it is a direct threat to public safety, the press release announced that “a group of 55 criminal justice leaders from around the nation filed an amicus brief calling on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to strike down this system.”

According to the press release, the civil asset forfeiture system results in “attorneys making more money for themselves the more they confiscate from others, thus creating a serious conflict of interest underlying every decision they make.”

The statement charges “Indiana is the only state to adopt such a statutory scheme.”

Outlining the long term risks that the civil asset forfeiture system poses, the brief states,

“Allowing private individuals who have profit-seeking motives to conduct asset forfeiture investigations will undoubtedly result in reduced faith in the legal system and, thus, less cooperation and decreased public safety.”

Demonstrating how the opposition to the civil asset forfeiture system garnered immense support, the statement explains the signatories on the brief who oppose the civil asset forfeiture system include “current and former elected prosecutors and law enforcement leaders; and former Attorneys General, U.S. Attorneys, and other U.S. Department of Justice officials.”

The signatories argued that “this highly problematic delegation of authority undermines the fairness and integrity of the criminal legal system.”

Marion County (Indianapolis) Prosecutor Ryan Mears stated, “Public trust is the essential currency that law enforcement authorities need to get buy-in and engagement from our communities. Indiana’s civil asset forfeiture structure erodes trust in the legitimacy of our state’s justice system and thereby threatens our ability to promote public safety and well-being for everyone.”

Additionally, the organizer of the brief—Miriam Krinsky, the executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution and a former federal prosecutor—said, “When we allow private individuals to pursue quasi-criminal forfeiture actions based on their own financial gain, we create an atmosphere that is ripe for widespread exploitation and the appearance of conflict.”

Krinsky added, “Indiana’s civil asset forfeiture laws—unique to that state alone—raise serious conflict of interest concerns and thereby erode trust in the legal system. We should not outsource critical functions of our country’s justice system to unelected private individuals who are not accountable to their local community.”

About The Author

Praniti Gulyani is a second-year student at UC Berkeley majoring in English with minor(s) in Creative Writing and Journalism. During her time at The Davis Vanguard as a Court Watch Intern and Opinion(s) Columnist for her weekly column, ‘The Student Vanguard' within the organization, she hopes to create content that brings the attention of the general reader to everyday injustice issues that need to be addressed immediately. After college, she hopes to work as a writer or a columnist in a newspaper or magazine, using the skills that she gains during her time at The Davis Vanguard to reach a wider audience.

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