Imagine owning an expensive piece of property, a piece of real estate perhaps, or maybe a car or boat. Now imagine having your property forcefully taken away from you because someone suspects, or pretends to suspect, that you are using the property in the commission of criminal acts. Then, imagine having to hire a lawyer and start a lawsuit to recover your property. After spending a small fortune in legal fees to recover your own property, imagine you lose your lawsuit, not because you could not prove your rightful ownership before its forceful seizure, but because you could not prove that the person who seized the property lacked a reasonable suspicion that you were using the property in the commission of criminal acts or that you were not in fact using the property in the commission of criminal acts. Finally, imagine that your only recourse is buying your property back from the person who took it. Not likely to happen in America? Think again. It might not be likely to happen in America if a private party forcefully seized your property. But if your own government took it, you are in deep trouble. This is, in fact, what is happening all over America thanks to 21 U.S.C. § 881 (Section 881), the civil forfeiture statute, and other state and federal forfeiture provision.
James E. Beaver, Kit G. Narodick, and Joseph M. Wallin, Civil Forfeiture and the Eighth Amendment After Austin, 19 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 1 (1995).