by Countable | 7.19.17
The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Wednesday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions is reinstating ‘adoptive seizure’ programs, which allow local and state law enforcement to seize assets under federal guidelines as opposed to more restrictive state guidelines. AG Sessions argues that this program will allow law enforcement to convert the assets of criminals into funds for law enforcement. The programs were halted under former-Attorney General Eric Holder amid investigations that forfeiture efforts often target poorer communities instead of criminals.
The new policy does institute requirements that are supposed to protect citizen’s rights, but critics maintain that the program provides a "perverse incentive" to cover funding shortfalls with seized assets.
Asset forfeiture is the confiscation of assets by the government. The purpose is supposed to be to disrupt criminal activity by confiscating assets that potentially could have been beneficial to the individual or organization. "Adoptive forfeiture" is where the federal government claims, or “adopts” the assets and then shares them with local jurisdictions. Typically the local jurisdictions get approximately 80 percent of the value and the federal government no more than 20 percent.
The Washington Post cites a report by the Institute of Justice, a libertarian non-profit law firm, "Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture":
"13 states have passed laws requiring prosecutors to obtain a criminal conviction before authorities can permanently seize an individual's property. Under federal law, however, authorities can take cash, vehicles, homes and any other property and keep it for themselves, without ever charging the suspect with a crime."
The constitutional concerns around civil forfeiture have even united the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas has stated:
"This system—where police can seize property with limited judicial oversight and retain it for their own use—has led to egregious and well-chronicled abuses...These forfeiture operations frequently target the poor and other groups least able to defend their interests in forfeiture proceedings."
The Court has left the legal door open to future cases that could narrow the scope of forfeiture.
Supporters of forfeiture, like Attorney General Sessions, maintain that civil asset forfeiture programs turn bad money into good:
"Civil asset forfeiture is a key tool that helps law enforcement defund organized crime, take back ill-gotten gains, and prevent new crimes from being committed, and it weakens the criminals and the cartels. Even more importantly, it helps return property to the victims of crime. Civil asset forfeiture takes the material support of the criminals and instead makes it the material support of law enforcement, funding priorities like new vehicles, bulletproof vests, opioid overdose reversal kits, and better training. In departments across this country, funds that were once used to take lives are now being used to save lives."
The new DOJ policy would not allow the federal government to seize property without justifiable cause documented by local law enforcement. Additionally, they must make the decision and notify the affected parties more quickly. Local officials must request the adoption within 15 days of seizure and the federal government must notify the asset owners within 45 days.
For assets totaling less than $10,000 in value local law enforcement must meet one of the following conditions: getting a state warrant, making an arrest related to the seizure, seizing contraband such as drugs along with the money, or when the owner of the property has confessed to a crime.
Still, the larger issue of incentive remains. Civil forfeiture accounts for billions of dollars of law enforcement "funding" a year. Following the 2015 changes to the adoption programs under the direction of then-Attorney General Holder the Washington Post notes the Institute of Justice analysis, which found that “adoptions dropped from $65 million the prior year to just $15,000.”
Do you support the reinstitution of adoptive seizure by the Department of Justice? Do you think the new protections in the policy go far enough to protect citizens’ rights?
Use the Take Action button to tell your reps what you think!
— Asha Sanaker
(Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Creative Commons)
Written by Countable
The AJ is acting like a criminal. Lock him up and take his assets.
Tyranny masquerading as democracy.
IF this practice is reinstated iDOJ should start by considering seizing the Trump Corp.
This is TRAUMATIC to families, INHUMAN to Americans, UNDIGNIFIED for human beings and just plain WRONG!!
This will feed corruption in law enforcement agencies. Please don't allow this to become policy. If it does become policy, expect to see the ACLU in courthouses across the country.
Without ever pressing charges! Is this a joke? So if my local police officer decides he doesn't like me he can just come and take my property for himself. I think it's time to leave this country! Might as well go to Mexico, same unlawful politicians and a lot cheaper to live there!
This is theft used by politicians and police for (1) the political purposes of harassment and revenge and for (2) the benefit of local municipalities to help defray local costs and keep taxes down. This policy change from the DOJ under Jeff Sessions is not at all about justice.
This bill reinstates a system that strongly incentivized corruption and has already been slapped by even conservative members of the Supreme Court. Allocate appropriate funding for law enforcement and do not include seizure of assets from people who have not even been convicted of a crime. This bill is despicable and discriminatory.
Have we just taken a major step to becoming a police state by allowing the Department of INJUSTICE free reign to seize our private property? We already have police using armored vehicles and swat teams available if we citizens step out of line, a line defined by the police. Congress needs to take action to stop this new extension of police confiscation of cash and personal property we own. WAKE UP REPUBLICANS, you are allowing our Democracy to slip away from us! How much more do you need to impeach the lunatic in the White House?
Hello!?!? Conflict of interest? We already have documented cases of trumped up charges and "over-zealous" prosecutors. Stop trying so desperately to turn the U.S. into a police state!
This is bad policy. The DOJ is there to uphold laws not make money. Bad, bad, bad!
This move by the AG is absolutely unconscionable. Not only is the idea of Civil asset forfeiture open to abuse, but it is also an appalling overreach to apply the policy nationally over the explicit will of statehouses who have voted to ban the practice. To decry "Big government" when talking about healthcare, but to remain silent on this move by the Attorney General would be hypocrisy of the highest order.
Seizing personal property will become another avenue of abuse. I am opposed to this measure.
This is open to abuse. People will seize property just to make a buck for their respective police department.
Seizing of private property does not sound like a good idea. Unless you plan to take all of Trumps fortunes when you convict him of a crime. I don't see that happening so no it shouldn't happen to others. Big drug cartels and organized crimes offenses based on RICO once convicted would be one thing but individuals, no. I see this as a reason to seize property from poor families or from families the public safety officers have a vengeance against. Please do NOT let Sessions get away with doing this. It is morally wrong and as republicans you consider yourselves moral or christians with strong godly morals. If that is the case this would and should go against every thing you believe in.
This is absolute madness. We already have an issue with law enforcement using excessive physical force, now let's give those same people the option to confiscate property on ridiculous "suspicions" with impunity.
Sessions' reauthorization to seize Americans' property without charges or trial sounds like the 3rd Reich!
THIS IS JUST WRONG!!! Don't allow this!!
The reality star is already an expert at kicking minorities out of their homes from back in the day. This type of justice should come as no surprise and be perfectly acceptable...right base...make America great again....
I do not support this law. This is America! A person is innocent until proven guilty! The federal government has no right to seize anything except those assets which would further be used to further a crime. We as a nation, should not be in the business of selling off people's assets to make money. Totally offensive!