|Attorney General Jeff Sessions|
In a terrible move for justice and individual rights against government overreach, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the federal government will increase the use of asset forfeiture.
"Speaking at a National District Attorneys Association conference in Minneapolis Monday, Sessions said state and local law enforcement could expect changes from U.S. Attorneys in several areas: increased prosecution of gun crimes, immigration offenses, gang activity, and prescription drug abuse, as well as increased asset seizure by the federal government.
"'[W]e hope to issue this week a new directive on asset forfeiture—especially for drug traffickers,' Sessions said. 'With care and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures. No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime. Adoptive forfeitures are appropriate as is sharing with our partners.'"What Sessions is promoting and expanding is the program that allows federal law enforcement officers or their local and state police partners to seize any property or monies they think might be involved in illegal activity. The person whose funds/property have been seized has to go to court to prove innocence. And the funds or proceeds from property seized goes into the pocket of the agency doing the seizing. So, the incentive for law enforcement to anticipate that money or property is involved in illegal activity and seize it is high.
|Senator Mike Lee|
"Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), a consistent Republican advocate for reforming asset forfeiture laws, said in a statement to Reason Monday: 'As Justice Thomas has previously said, there are serious constitutional concerns regarding modern civil asset forfeiture practices. The Department has an obligation to consider due process constraints in crafting its civil asset forfeiture policies.'
Lee was referring to conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' notable dissent* in an asset forfeiture case this June. Thomas wrote that forfeiture operations "frequently target the poor and other groups least able to defend their interests in forfeiture proceedings."
|Justice Clarence Thomas|
Unfortunately, Jeff Sessions continues to show his bankruptcy on conservative and limited government issues as he did on this issue while still a senator.
_____*"As Thomas explained in Leonard v. Texas, '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.' For one thing, 'because the law enforcement entity responsible for seizing the property often keeps it, these entities have strong incentives to pursue forfeiture.' For another, this sort of police abuse disproportionately harms disadvantaged groups. 'These forfeiture operations frequently target the poor and other groups least able to defend their interests in forfeiture proceedings,' he observed. 'Perversely, these same groups are often the most burdened by forfeiture. They are more likely to use cash than alternative forms of payment, like credit cards, which may be less susceptible to forfeiture. And they are more likely to suffer in their daily lives while they litigate for the return of a critical item of property, such as a car or a home.'"