The Welfare Effects of Civil Forfeiture

Review of Behavioral Economics, 4(2), September 2017, pp. 153-179. doi: 10.1561/105.00000063

23 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2014 Last revised: 19 Apr 2018

See all articles by Michael Preciado

Michael Preciado

Snell & Wilmer LLP

Bart J. Wilson

Chapman University - Smith Institute for Political Economy and Philosophy; Chapman University - Economic Science Institute (ESI); Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law

Date Written: June 2, 2017

Abstract

Using a laboratory experiment we explore competing claims on the welfare effects of civil forfeiture. Experiment participants are tasked with making trade-offs in allocating resources “to fight crime” with and without the ability to seize and forfeit assets. It is an open question whether the societal impact of reducing crime is greater in a world with or without civil forfeiture. Proponents of civil forfeiture argue that the ill-gotten gains of criminals can be used by law enforcement to further fight crime. Opponents claim that the confiscation of assets by law enforcement distorts the prioritization of cases by focusing attention, not on cases with the largest societal impact, but on those with the highest valued assets that can be seized. We find that the public is better off in a world without civil forfeiture.

Keywords: civil asset forfeiture, experimental economics

JEL Classification: C90, K39

Suggested Citation

Preciado, Michael and Wilson, Bart J., The Welfare Effects of Civil Forfeiture (June 2, 2017). Review of Behavioral Economics, 4(2), September 2017, pp. 153-179. doi: 10.1561/105.00000063. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2477098 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2477098

Michael Preciado

Snell & Wilmer LLP ( email )

United States

Bart J. Wilson (Contact Author)

Chapman University - Smith Institute for Political Economy and Philosophy ( email )

One University Drive
Orange, CA 92866
United States
(714) 628-7306 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www1.chapman.edu/~bjwilson/

Chapman University - Economic Science Institute (ESI) ( email )

One University Drive
Orange, CA 92866
United States
(714) 628-7306 (Phone)

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law ( email )

One University Drive
Orange, CA 92866-1099
United States
(714) 628-7306 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www1.chapman.edu/~bjwilson/

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