ACLU Comment on Justice Department Expansion of Civil Asset Forfeiture

July 19, 2017 11:00 am

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WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced today the reversal of former Attorney General Eric Holder’s policy to curb law enforcement seizures of people’s property. The Department of Justice (DOJ) is not only expanding the use of civil forfeiture at the federal level, but at the local level through partnerships that allow profit sharing among federal and local police departments.

Kanya Bennett, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, had the following reaction:

“During widespread bipartisan momentum to reform asset forfeiture, it is outrageous that Attorney General Sessions wants to increase law enforcement seizures of people’s money, cars, and other property. We are talking about people who have not been convicted of a crime and are often not given a day in court to reclaim their possessions. Civil asset forfeiture is tantamount to policing for profit, generating millions of dollars annually that the agencies get to keep.

“This is part of Sessions’ agenda to bring back the failed and racist War on Drugs, where this and other ineffective, unjust, and un-American practices were widely used. Forfeiture has even been deemed ineffective by the DOJ’s inspector general, and over 80 percent of Americans want to get rid of this practice.

“When signaling this policy reversal, Sessions proclaimed: ‘no criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime.’ The 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, which requires only mere suspicion that the property is connected to a crime. It is alarming that Attorney General Sessions either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that no one in this country is a criminal until charged with and convicted of a crime. This program is egregiously at odds with our due process rights.

“This move will be devastating for all Americans, but especially for communities of color, who are already subjected to unconstitutional violations and over policing.”

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