U.S. House Votes to Curb Civil Asset Forfeiture

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In a surprising move, the House of Representatives approved an amendment that will roll back Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ asset forfeiture plan that would have allowed law enforcement to seize cash and property from people suspected of illegal activity but who had not necessarily been charged, much less convicted, of any crime.

Amendment number 126 of the House bill, sponsored by a bipartisan group of nine members, was approved by a virtually unanimous voice vote.

This move will defund the federal asset forfeiture program that Sessions was eager to reinstate after Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder had curtailed the practice, although he had definitely not abolished it.

In other words, approval of the amendment puts the brakes on Sessions and Trump’s obsession with rolling back, or totally eliminating, any and all of Obama’s reforms.

Sessions’ plan to revive the Justice Department’s so-called Equitable Sharing Program are dashed for now.

The program had allowed state and local law enforcement agencies to take an 80 percent kickback from the seizure of civil assets they carried out. This essentially gave cops a huge incentive to knock down doors and steal private citizens’ property and money.

This corrupt practice served as a way for local police and other agencies to avoid state laws that were designed to limit asset forfeiture.

While the legal origins of civil asset forfeiture go back a long way in U.S. history, the modern version was revived during the cocaine wars of the mid-1980s.

Indeed, Americans lose more property to police seizures than to robbers, according to the Washington Post. In the last decade alone, almost $28 billion worth of cash and property has been seized in this way.

In fact, the DEA seems to rely on asset forfeiture

The Justice Department’s inspector general noted this past March that DEA agents had seized $4 billion in cash during the past decade from travelers—under the pretext of drug-related asset forfeiture.

In more than 81 percent of the cases reviewed, there were no criminal charges filed.

It’s about time to put an end to all forms of this abusive practice, which is nothing more than highway robbery.

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