Law

Who's winning from asset seizures?

Military vehicles near City Hall, in Baltimore, May 1, 2015.
Alex Brandon | AP

As CNBC has reported this week, the Justice Department's Asset Forfeiture Program has grown over the past decade to take in over $4 billion in assets in 2014. The growth of the program, and its continued reliance on seizures of assets from citizens never accused of a crime, has sounded alarms across the political spectrum.

But where do all those monies go? According to the program's 2015 report to Congress, funds go back into the operating budget for the program itself. That is, they pay to keep it going, as well as "equitable sharing payments to participating state, local and foreign governments." This means that the DOJ pays local law enforcement agencies to participate in the asset forfeiture program.

The part of the asset forfeiture program that provides funds for local agencies is known as the equitable sharing program. Up to 80 percent of funds seized has gone to the budgets of local law enforcement agencies involved in the seizures. The graphic below shows the distribution of forfeited funds in 2014. Click a state to get a breakdown of its allocation by local agency.