You may have heard that the police can take your cash and other assets if they simply believe that you got them through some sort of criminal activity. Never mind proving it. They can make that seizure on suspicion alone.

But have you ever wondered how this practice started? Why would anyone agree to a law that makes it possible for the authorities to take money and other assets from people who may not have done anything wrong? In many other ways, the justice system is based around the idea that you’re innocent until proven guilty, so this feels like it works backward.

As you may have expected, it’s a throwback to the infamous “war on drugs” that started in the 1980s. That’s when the government decided to really crack down on drug use, a controversial decision that has put many people behind bars and is one of the reasons that American jails are so full compared to other countries.

The goal of these cash seizures, proponents argued, was to make it less attractive for alleged criminals to work as drug traffickers. If they could take the money out of the system so that moving and selling drugs was no longer profitable, they figured they would put a stop to that process.

Like the rest of the war on drugs, it remains controversial and it clearly has not ended drug use or sales in the United States. But the practice still continues, outdated as it may be. If the police decide they’re going to take your assets, make sure you know what legal options you have.