Jeff Sessions Is Aiding and Abetting Police Departments Who Want to Seize Property of People Convicted of No Crime

On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Justice Department plans to “develop policies to increase forfeitures.” And today he did just that by reversing a 2015 policy then-Attorney General Eric Holder issued that prohibited local law enforcement from circumventing more restrictive state civil forfeiture laws by partnering with the feds. When signaling this policy reversal, Sessions proclaimed “no criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime.” The only problem is that we are not talking about criminals.

We are talking about Americans who have had their homes, cars, money, and other property taken through civil forfeiture, a practice that requires only mere suspicion that property is connected to a crime. That’s right — people can have their property taken by the government without a criminal charge being filed, much less a conviction secured. More often than not, the police who seize the property get to keep it or sell it off and keep the proceeds, which only incentivizes the corrupt practice.

And by now, most of America knows just how loose the standards are for law enforcement seizures by the case names, like 
State of Texas vs. One Gold Crucifix, where the ACLU would ultimately intervene. The country also knows that the “criminals” targeted by law enforcement are innocent property owners, like ACLU client Rhonda Cox. In 2013, she had her $6,000 used pickup truck seized and permanently forfeited because her 20-year-old son made repairs to it with stolen parts unbeknownst to her.

Civil asset forfeiture is unjust and un-American.

Now don’t get me wrong, we have known this day was coming. There is a list of failed War on Drugs policies that Attorney General Sessions is working to revive one day at a time. And there is the 2015 U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing where Sessions said that civil forfeiture only impacts those who have “done nothing in their lives but sell dope.” That’s patently untrue.

However, just because we anticipated this federal resuscitating of civil forfeiture does not mean that we should not be outraged. Civil forfeiture is unjust and un-American, according to 84 percent of the public. It’s also counter to
bipartisan reform efforts in Congress, with Jeff Sessions has said he’s “very unhappy” with.

Attorney General Session’s action today is a big setback to the legislators in the more than 20 states that have reformed their civil forfeiture laws in recent years. Three states have eliminated civil forfeiture altogether, according to the Institute for Justice, while some now require a criminal conviction or subject civil forfeitures to a higher burden of proof. Essentially, Sessions has just provided law enforcement who do not like their state forfeiture laws with a loophole to police for profit. And when there are millions of dollars on the line, there is no incentive for law enforcement to abandon this practice on their own.

We can tell the Department of Justice don’t let cops use federal law to ignore stronger state asset forfeiture protections. But given today’s announcement by Attorney General Sessions, that call to action may fall on deaf ears. Now we must also demand that Congress pass civil asset forfeiture reforms and end policing for profit once and for all.

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Anonymous

This is what happens when you have an ignorant, unqualified Attorney General appointed by an ignorant, unqualified president.

Anonymous

EXACTLY!

Anonymous

In Delaware, they confiscate and then put a notice in the local newspaper telling the public that it has been seized and if you can prove it belongs to you, you can claim said property. Somehow, I do not see people who have purchased illegal substances filling out claim forms. Proceeds from forfeiture should be directed to senior citizens and veterans health care and housing. Not to general funds or politicians discretionary jackpots.
And while we are on this topic, how about doing the same with so called unclaimed property. No state should be counting the millions of dollars they are labeling as " unclaimed" as a sizeable chunk of their operating budget. Won't be long before Sessions and frump discover that little money pot.

Lynne Roberts

Will ACLU assist in suing the government to stop unjustified forfeiture of property? It seems to me that the Congress will not stop it regardless of opinions expressed, and the only stop will occur if the Supreme Court eventually says it is unconstitutional to take property from innocent people.

Anonymous

I see no response from the ACLU in regard to if it will File a Suit against this injustice. I have seen no real effort by the ACLU to stop real injustice.

Anonymous

Are you not paying attention? This is FROM the ACLU!

Anonymous

What a totalitarian psycho! He wants to institute the Enabling Act or Ermächtigungsgesetz of Adolf Hitler from 1934 here in the USA!! GET RID OF THIS HITLER WANNABE THUG BEFORE HE GETS US ALL KILLED, OUR PROPERTIES CONFISCATED, OR US ARRESTED, TRIED, AND CONVICTED ON TRUMPED UP OR FALSE CHARGES! HE'S A MANIAC!

Anonymous

I happen to agree with all three of these comments. There is just not excuses for pure stupidity and I am afraid that is what we have in our government right now no matter how many times they might say they have a smart brain.

Loretta

Happy that the ACLU is addressing this issue. Hoping for a SCOTUS case that property can't be seized, nor held in impound with fees accruing until it becomes a seizure by default because the person can't pay all the impound fees, unless there is both conviction of the crime and proof in separate process that the property is, indeed, the result of a crime. The State should have to prove both.

Anonymous

This is exactly how Hitler and the Nazis did citizens when they came to power. This is especially aimed at persons of Arab descent, Latinos and blacks. The reign of terror is starting to usher in the era of the American Nazis led by Trump, Pence, Cruz and Mitch McConnell.

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