Oft-Criticized Law Enforcement Practice Is Set to Get Easier

Jeff Sessions says DOJ plans to loosen asset forfeiture policies
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 18, 2017 8:45 AM CDT
Jeff Sessions to Make It Easier for Cops to Seize Property
Attorney General Jeff Sessions addresses the summer meeting of the nation's district attorneys from around the country at the Hilton in Minneapolis, Minn., Monday, July, 17 2017.   (Jerry Holt)

The Justice Department will soon make it easier for local law enforcement to seize cash and property—permanently—from crime suspects and reap the proceeds. "We plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures," Attorney General Jeff Sessions told local prosecutors Monday in Minnesota. "No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime." Sessions said a shift will be announced this week that will increase the use of asset forfeiture, especially for drug suspects. The practice has been criticized because it allows law enforcement to take possessions, such as cars and money, without indictments or evidence a crime has been committed. A change would likely represent another reversal by Sessions of Obama-era Justice Department policies, reports the AP.

Democratic predecessor Eric Holder had restricted the feds' ability to take possession of assets seized by local authorities, who could then share the proceeds with their federal counterparts. Those who praised that move said the practice made it easier for local authorities to circumvent state laws that were sometimes stricter than the federal ones. Mother Jones points to a DOJ watchdog's report released in March that found the DEA has in the last decade seized $3.2 billion in cash from people suspected of being involved in the drug trade but never charged with a crime. Further, the inspector general reviewed 100 cases of civil asset forfeiture at random and found that 56% of the time "there was no discernible connection between the seizure and the advancement of law enforcement efforts." Holder's take on the news: "Another extremist action." (More asset forfeiture stories.)

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