Since 2007, the DEA has seized a total of $3.2 billion in cash from people suspected of being involved in the drug trade but never charged with a crime, the Washington Post reports. That statistic comes from a Department of Justice watchdog's report released Wednesday. According to the AP, the inspector general reviewed 100 cases of civil asset forfeiture at random and found only 44 were verifiably connected to an ongoing investigation, responsible for starting a new investigation, or led to arrests or prosecutions. That means that 56% of the time "there was no discernible connection between the seizure and the advancement of law enforcement efforts," Business Insider quotes from the report.
Civil asset forfeiture allows law enforcement to seize cash, homes, cars, and more without criminal or civil charges or judicial review. Departments can then keep the forfeitures to pad their budgets unless people win a challenge in court. The report found that 81% of the DEA's seizures since 2007 fall under this category. The report says this "creates the appearance, and risks the reality, that [law enforcement] is more interested in seizing and forfeiting cash than advancing an investigation or prosecution." For example, a police department in Florida arrested 84 people, seizing $49 million in cash, without ever filing a charge. The DOJ's criminal division says the report is misleading and uses bad data. (Read more DEA stories.)