1/7/16 Civil Asset Forfeiture

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Here’s an update on a topic we’ve talked about in the past (here, here, here). The Justice Department is shutting down the “equitable sharing program” of asset forfeiture.

There are two types of asset forfeiture: criminal and civil.  In criminal asset forfeiture, the government may seize money and assets it’s shown to be the spoils of criminal activity after there’s been a conviction.

Civil asset forfeiture is the Wild West.  It’s used before someone’s been convicted, charged or even accused of a crime.

Federal rules for asset forfeiture are lax.  Under the equitable sharing arrangement, the D.O.J. allowed state and local governments to use these lax, federal rules.  Too often, state and local police forces confiscated money and assets without charging anyone with a crime.  Or even questioning them.

Agencies then auction the assets.  They’re usually free to spend all the money they’ve accumulated with few or no restrictions.  This is why critics call it “policing for profit.”

It’s been reported Washington, D.C. police make stops and seize whatever cash they find in people’s pockets — even as little as twenty dollars — claiming it could be drug proceeds.

Ending the “equitable sharing program” is a small step in the right direction.  But more needs to be done to guarantee citizens their 5th Amendment rights to due process before government confiscates their cash and belongings.

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