This post isn't ending the way you probably think it is form the first few sentences, so stick with me here...
For crimes like racketeering, smuggling, and yes, drug dealing cases, assets DO need to be seized and frozen, and yes, before anyone is found guilty. Otherwise, the money simply vanishes into the accounts of friends and the empire continues. This is a stone cold fact, and to argue against it is, frankly, to not understand how organized crime works. Did you know those assets are, in fact, held in trust until the case is over, and you really DO get it back if you're found not guilty? You may have noticed even this article states that the assets are deposited into a specific civil forfeiture fund. In and of itself, this is genuinely NOT "theft". The money has to sit somewhere. It really does.
That said... if someone is found guilty or pleads out? In no way should those assets go to the departments that seize them, or, frankly, any other law enforcement agency. It should go to fund Social security, or schools, or other public works. Does that means SOME would go to law enforcement? Well, yes; they are part of the public works that keeps this country going, but it also should buy teacher salaries, fix roads, and fund SNAP and Energy Assistance Programs... you know, things that help prevent the desperation that causes 80% of crime in the first place?
But as it stands right now, forfeiture goes DIRECTLY INTO THE POCKETS of the agency that seized the assets in the first place. Worse still, even if you are found innocent you still have to get a lawyer to get YOUR legal property returned to you! You'd have to be a complete imbecile to not see how much corruption this almost immediately engenders.
I don't like the idiots who use terms like "badge polishers", but this is one of the cases where even the craziest anti police lunatics are absolutely correct: this system can NOT stand as it currently exists.
It is injustice.