Legal Measures for Targeting the Proceeds of Crime
Edited by Simon N.M. Young
Chapter 2: An Overview of Asset Forfeiture in the United States
2. An overview of asset forfeiture in the United States Stefan D. Cassella* INTRODUCTION Asset forfeiture came into prominence as a law enforcement tool in the United States during the 1990s. At the beginning of that decade, the Department of Justice – the principal federal law enforcement agency – was forfeiting approximately US$200 million per year in criminal assets, mostly from drug cases. By the end of the decade, it was forfeiting more than US$600 million per year in assets involved in an enormous variety of serious crimes.1 In short, in the last decade, asset forfeiture became institutionalized as an essential weapon in the arsenal that the federal law enforcement agencies in the United States could bring to bear on the perpetrators of crime. But the statutes, procedures and policies that govern the application of the forfeiture laws did not spring full grown from a single Act of Congress. Nor were the various statutes that were enacted piecemeal over many years accepted by the courts without scepticism or controversy. To the contrary, laws and concepts that developed slowly throughout the 19th and 20th centuries were greatly expanded in the last 20 years, applied in new contexts and subjected to close scrutiny by a sceptical judiciary. Only now, after more than a dozen constitutional challenges in the Supreme Court of the United States and the enactment * The chapter consists of extracts from chapters 1 and 2 of Stefan D. Cassella (2006), Asset Forfeiture Law in the United States, Huntington, NY, US:...
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