Civil asset forfeiture is a nuclear weapon of tyranny. If the Eye of Sauron targets you, they can destroy you. Get too uppity with your speech, politics, etc.? Piss off the police? Lose your house(s). Lose your car(s). Sure you can spend a few years making some lawyers bank in an attempt to fight the Brazil style bureaucracy, but you will probably need to sell whatever you recover to pay for the effort.
Maybe there is hope for the future:
By taking Clarke's case, the Institute for Justice is hoping to combat not just the one injustice Clarke felt he suffered, but the civil forfeiture laws that drive all these other cases as well. So they're attaching a broader constitutional argument to the case: that the Justice Department shouldn't be able to — as it does today — choose where to spend the seized money, because that gives the executive branch appropriations powers left to Congress in the Constitution.
"Under the Appropriations Clause, Congress is the only branch that has the power to appropriate money," Sheth said. "That's designed to protect people. So if Congress — the most representative branch — holds the purse strings, then people are actually accountable to how that money is spent."
This is an argument that's been advanced by other critics of civil forfeiture, including the Drug Policy Alliance. It's unclear whether it can win in courts, and whether it would strike down civil forfeiture laws. But for organizations like the Institute for Justice, it's the best chance to take out a program that they believe is doing a lot of harm — and that lawmakers just aren't doing much about.