The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday about civil forfeitures, the practice in which the police seize cars, money and other property said to have been used in connection with crimes, reports the New York Times.
Civil forfeitures can raise an array of due process issues; the question before the court was whether people seeking to regain their property are entitled to a prompt hearing. Though some justices appeared inclined to rule that at least that much was required, several indicated they would leave the resolution for another day because the case was procedurally flawed. Law enforcement agencies seize more than $1 billion worth of property every year, generally without warrants and based on officials' assertions that the property was tainted. Property owners may challenge the seizures but must often wait months or years to do so.