Texas Civil Forfeiture

State of Texas v. One 2004 Chevrolet Silverado
Ending “Policing for Profit” in Texas

IJ client Zaher El-Ali is challenging the state of Texas' right to seize his 2004 Chevrolet Silverado based on the fact that someone else drove the truck while intoxicated.

Download the report: Forfeiting Justice

Texas has some of the worst civil forfeiture laws in the nation, as demonstrated by an Institute for Justice report, Policing for Profit:  The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture.  Texas law establishes a trifecta of circumstances that invite forfeiture abuse.  First, Texas allows law enforcement agencies to police for profit—to seize and sell property then return the proceeds directly into their budgets giving them a financial incentive to abuse this power.  Second, Texas uses a “preponderance of the evidence” standard for determining whether a particular seizure is valid, rather than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard for criminal defendants.  Third, Texas places the burden on the innocent owner to prove his innocence.

Small businessman Zaher El-Ali, who goes by Ali, has lived in Houston for more than 30 years, and is in many ways a classic American immigrant success story.  Ali struggled to get his Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck back from Harris County police and prosecutors for the better part of nine months.  The pickup was seized by the police after they stopped the truck’s driver for driving while intoxicated.  But the driver did not own the Silverado.  The driver was making payments to purchase the truck from Ali, but had not finished paying for it.  Ali retained title, and would like to get his truck back.  But under Texas law, the burden is on the property owner, and, as Ali found out, it is very difficult to get your property back once it has been seized for civil forfeiture.

That is why he brought a counterclaim in the case of State of Texas v. One 2004 Chevrolet Silverado to challenge Texas’ civil forfeiture statute as a violation of his constitutional rights.  For the benefit of all Texans, Ali challenged the profit incentive that underlies civil forfeiture in the state.  He also challenged the provision of the law that places the burden on owners to prove their innocence, rather than on the state to prove their guilt.  The goal of Ali’s challenge was to help rebalance Texas law enforcement priorities, take the profit out of civil forfeiture, and protect innocent property owners caught up in an upside-down legal process that violates fundamental constitutional standards of due process.



Essential Background


Backgrounder: Constitutional Lawsuit Challenges Texas Law Allowing Forfeiture Abuse

Client Photo - none available

Video: Policing for Profit

Client Video: Scott Bullock and Zaher El-Ali discuss forfeiture with John Stossel

Latest Release: Texas Supreme Court Justices Slam Civil Forfeiture Law (March 31, 2014)

Launch Release: Constitutional Challenge Aims to End Rampant Forfeiture Abuse in Texas (April 7, 2010)

Video: Press Conference Case Launch (April 7, 2010)
Video: Scott Bullock discusses Forfeiting Justice

Legal Briefs and Decisions

Download: Answer and CounterclaimPDF



Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit:

April 7, 2010

Court Filed:

Harris County Civil District Court


none available

Current Court: 

5th Circuit Court


Pending at the 5th Circuit

Next Key Date:

To Be Determined

Additional Releases

Reports, Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: Forfeiture Abuse Gets Rubber-Stamped by Texas Appellate Court December 4, 2012)

Download Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture

Detail: State Forfeiture Grades and Map
EndForfeiture.com: IJ's Initiative to End Policing for Profit

Release: Challenge to “Policing for Profit” in Texas Heads to Court of Appeals (July 19, 2011)

Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Video: Forfeiture Abuse: Even Your Drums Aren't Safe From the Police; (February 28, 2011) 

Release: New Report: Texas Police & Prosecutors Cashing In on Seized Property Texas Ranks as One of the Worst States for Civil Forfeiture Abuse (November 22, 2010) Video: IJ's Scott Bullock discusses the Forfeiting Justice report; (November 18, 2010)

Video: Fox Business: IJ's Scott Bullock discusses "policing for profit" with David Asman; (August 10, 2010)

Article: IJ's Texas-sized Challenge Aims to End Forfeiture Abuse; Liberty & Law (June 2010)
Article: IJ Report Kicks Off New Campaign Against Civil Forfeiture Abuse; Liberty & Law (April 2010)
Video: IJ Client Zaher El-Ali Challenges Texas' Seizure of His Chevy Silverado - Ali Committed No Crime; KIAH-CW (April 20, 2010)
Video: Policing for Profit - The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture; (March 30, 2010)

Op-ed: My fight to stop property forfeiture abuse The Houston Chronicle (April 7, 2010)

Email Address
Please enter a valid email address

Institute for Justice
901 N. Glebe Road, Suite 900
Arlington, VA 22203
Tel 703.682.9320, Fax 703.682.9321
© 1997-2015