In what can be described as a perhaps the most important shift in policing in a generation, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that the U.S. Department of Justice’s “adoption program” which allows state police agencies to use federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without having to prove that a crime occurred, will be suspended.
According to the Washington Post, since 2008, thousands of local and state police agencies have made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property worth $3 billion under a civil asset forfeiture program at the Justice Department called Equitable Sharing.
The program has enabled local and state police to make seizures and then have them “adopted” by federal agencies, which share in the proceeds. The program allowed police departments and drug task forces to keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds of the adopted seizures, with the rest going to federal agencies.
Under civil forfeiture laws, law enforcement can take property suspected of involvement in criminal activity without convicting or charging the owner with a crime.
At the federal level and in most states, agencies involved in the forfeiture, including prosecutors and police departments, can keep some or all of the proceeds for their own use, according to the Institute for Justice.
“This important change in policy will strengthen protections for property owners who stand to lose their cash, cars, and other property without being convicted of or even charged with a crime,”
said Scott Bullock, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, the nation’s leading legal advocate against civil forfeiture.
“But it is essential that greater protections for property owners must follow at the federal level and in the states to ensure that Americans are no longer victimized by civil forfeiture.”
While the new policy will have no effect on the federal government or joint task forces from continuing to seize the property of innocent Americans with nothing more than a suspicion, it is certainly a good first step towards a more just policy.
In the wake of numerous public relations nightmares, such as the government warnings to Canadian citizens, of U.S. law enforcement confiscating large sums of cash found on people without any type of evidence of criminal activity, federal legislation was introduced to reign in the government’s civil forfeiture program.
“Civil forfeiture should not exist in a country that values the principles of private property rights and due process,”
said Chip Mellor, Institute for Justice’s President and General Counsel.
“Now is the time to enshrine today’s policy change into the law and to pass further reforms to ensure that no American loses their property without being convicted of a crime.”
Policing for profit has been exposed as nothing more than a simple legitimized extortion racket. This is a good first step that makes violating peoples rights less appealing to law enforcement.