Hours after IJ announced it was representing Phil, a state judge ordered the government to give back Phil’s money. The Wyoming Attorney General’s office quickly agreed to do so. This lack of serious objection on the part of the government is not surprising. Returning seized property when facing a major lawsuit is a common practice among law enforcement across the nation, and it only perpetuates civil forfeiture.
No American should lose property without being convicted of a crime.
By returning the property to those who are fortunate to find good representation, law enforcement is able to prevent a negative ruling that would chip away at civil forfeiture and thwarts the cushy revenue stream.
As news about Phil’s fight with Wyoming law enforcement spread, it even reached the Wyoming state legislature, where a bipartisan group of lawmakers pledged to outlaw the use of roadside waivers to force law enforcement to comply with its recently-passed reforms. One of the legislators, Sen. Anthony Bouchard, went even further, saying that while the pledge is a good start, more has to be done to prevent civil forfeiture abuses.
Even though Phil emerged victoriously, most victims of civil forfeiture are not as lucky. Only 14 states have completely abolished their civil forfeiture programs and Congress has struggled to pass any meaningful reforms.
No American should lose property without being convicted of a crime. There will be no justice until Wyoming—and every state—abolishes civil forfeiture altogether.
Anya Bidwell is an IJ attorney.
This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.