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Author Topic: Jeff Sessions Will Increase Asset Forfeitures
airforce
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“No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime,” he said. So he's going to keep letting police take cash without charging them with any crime. Because to hell with the Bill of Rights.

quote:
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Justice Department will issue new directives to increase the federal govenment's use of civil asset forfeiture, a controversial practice that allows law enforcement to seize property from suspected criminals without charging them with a crime.

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."

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment and for more information about the directive.

Asset forfeiture became a prized hammer in law enforcement's tool chest in the 1980s, when the government was struggling to combat organized drug cartels. Law enforcement groups say the laws allow them to disrupt drug trafficking operations by targeting their proceeds—cars, cash, and guns.

However, the practice has exploded since then, and civil liberties groups and political advocacy organizations, both liberal and conservative, say the perverse profit incentives and lack of oversight lead to far more average citizens having their property seized than cartel bosses.

The Justice Department plays a huge role in asset forfeiture through its Equitable Sharing Program, which allows state and local police to have their forfeiture cases "adopted" by the federal government. The feds take over the case, and the seized money is put into the equitable sharing pool. In return, the department gets up to 80 percent of those funds back. The equitable sharing program distributes hundreds of millions of dollars a year to police departments around the country.

Darpana Sheth, an attorney for the Institute for Justice, a libertarian-leaning public interest law firm, called Sessions' announcement "a disheartening setback in the fight to protect Americans' private property rights" in a statement Monday. "

"Ordinary Americans see that civil forfeiture is unconstitutional, and 24 states have taken steps to roll back civil forfeiture laws," Sheth continued. "The Attorney General's plan to increase forfeitures is jarringly out of step with those positive developments."

A 2014 Washington Post investigative series found that warrantless police seizures of cash through the equitable sharing program have boomed since 9/11, hauling in $2.5 billion.

Reason investigations of asset forfeiture data showed that Chicago's poor neighborhoods were hit hardest by asset forfeiture. Meanwhile in Mississippi, law enforcement recorded many big hauls of cash, but state court records were also littered with petty and abusive seizures.

Asset forfeiture opponents say the equitable sharing fund essentially allows local and state police to avoid state laws restricting asset forfeiture by going through the federal government.

Responding to increasing media scrutiny and public outcry, former Attorney General Eric Holder took limited steps in 2015 to reform the Justice Department's equitable sharing program.

Although the details have yet to be released, Sessions' directive appears likely to loosen the restrictions on "adoptions" of forfeiture cases by the federal government—an alarming prospect for opponents of asset forfeiture.

"Reversing the ban on adoptive seizures would revive one of the most notorious forms of forfeiture abuse," Sheth said. "So-called 'adoptive' seizures allow state and local law enforcement to circumvent state-law limitations on civil forfeiture by seizing property and then transferring it to federal prosecutors for forfeiture under federal law. Bringing back adoptive seizures would create a road map to circumvent state-level forfeiture reforms."

Sessions' upcoming directive to increase asset forfeiture comes as little surprise. Sessions, a former prosecutor and U.S. senator, has been a stalwart defender of asset forfeiture throughout his career. He has already dismantled Obama-era directives on drug sentencing guidelines and ordered a review of all of the existing consent agreements between the Justice Department and police departments that were found to be violating residents' constitutional rights.

Trump chose several decent people for his Cabinet. Jeff Sessions is not one of them.

Onward and upward,
airforce

Posts: 16933 | From: Tulsa | Registered: Jan 2002  | Report this post to a Moderator
D308cat
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Maybe we should let Trump know that if he allows this he will be a one term President for sure !

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PSALM 144:01 Blessed be the LORD my Rock, Who trains my hands for war, And my fingers for battle---

Posts: 715 | From: High Desert | Registered: Nov 2009  | Report this post to a Moderator
airforce
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Civil asset forfeiture is inherently abusive. Here is the statement from the Institute for Justice:

quote:
Today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice would repeal reforms intended to curb federal law enforcement agencies’ use of civil forfeiture. In response, Institute for Justice Senior Attorney and Director of its Nationwide Initiative to End Forfeiture Darpana Sheth issued the following statement:

quote:
Civil forfeiture is inherently abusive. No one should lose his or her property without being first convicted of a crime, let alone charged with one. The only safeguard to protect Americans from civil forfeiture is to eliminate its use altogether. The Department of Justice’s supposed safeguards amount to little more than window dressing of an otherwise outrageous abuse of power.

We have consistently warned that the modest reforms put in place in 2015 could be rolled back with the stroke of a pen—and that is precisely what Attorney General Sessions has done today. The DOJ’s directive, announced to a room full of law enforcement officials who stand to reap the profits of this new policy, shows the fundamental absurdity of a system of justice which prioritizes funding law enforcement over protecting constitutional rights or fighting crime.

As the Justice Department’s Inspector General recently reported, the Department does not collect data to measure how often seizures and forfeitures advance criminal investigations. And the inspector general’s review of 100 cash seizures conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration found that the agency could verify that fewer than half advanced or were related to an ongoing investigation.

The Justice Department’s new forfeiture directive restores the ability of state and local law enforcement to reap 80 percent of forfeiture proceeds by using federal forfeiture laws to circumvent protections put in place by state legislatures.

The supposed “safeguards” implemented by this policy directive offer little or no substantive protection to property owners as they depend primarily on self-policing rather than judicial oversight. Most amount to nothing more than a pledge to be more careful. For example, under this new policy, the Justice Department will continue to seek forfeiture of homes where the owner is not implicated in illegal activity, with the only “safeguard” being that the Department officials should proceed with particular caution. That offers no actual protection for innocent homeowners.

Moreover, despite well-documented abusive seizures of more than $10,000 in cash, the directive only requires additional safeguards for adoptions of $10,000 or less, which can be circumvented with a simple thumbs up from a federal prosecutor. Only one of the four alternative “safeguards” for seizures of $10,000 or less involves any judicial involvement (seizures pursuant to a state warrant), but judicial oversight of warrants is limited and often perfunctory, because warrants are issued based on statements from law-enforcement officers and do not afford property owners any opportunity to contest the validity of the warrant.

The DOJ stands alone in dismissing the need for real reform of federal forfeiture laws.

Onward and upward,
airforce

Posts: 16933 | From: Tulsa | Registered: Jan 2002  | Report this post to a Moderator
airforce
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Jeff Sessions attacks both federalism and property rights. A new article by George Mason law professor Ilya Somin.

quote:
Earlier this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department is going to expand asset forfeiture – a badly flawed policy under which the government is allowed to confiscate the property of people suspected of a crime, even in many cases where they are never charged, much less convicted. The new policy would reinstate and expand a program under which the federal government “adopts” forfeiture cases initiated by state and local law enforcement agencies, and then lets the state agency keep 80% of the proceeds through “equitable sharing,” thus creating a strong financial incentive to pursue forfeiture cases.

Sessions claims that the policy is needed to ensure that criminals are not “allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime.” In reality, however, some 87% of federal asset forfeiture cases do not require any prosecution or conviction. Often, authorities seize property they think might potentially have been used to commit a crime, even if the owner did not violate any criminal laws himself. The opportunity to profit from the sale of forfeited assets creates perverse incentives to seize as much as possible.

In recent years, asset forfeiture has attracted widespread opposition on both right and left, because it undermines property rights, harms numerous innocent people, and especially tends to victimize the poor and minorities, who often lack the resources to contest seizures. In many states, owners have little opportunity to contest seizures, thereby enabling authorities to hold on to their seized property for months or even years, without so much as a hearing. In my view, such practices violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, but the Supreme Court has yet to rule on the issue. Justice Clarence Thomas also raised serious concerns about the constitutionality of asset forfeitures in a recent opinion. Sessions’ expansion of asset forfeitures has already inspired a petition asking Congress to reverse it, joined by groups as varied as the ACLU, the libertarian Institute for Justice (which has long been active on this issue), the NAACP, Americans for Prosperity, the Goldwater Institute, and others.

In 2015, Obama attorney general Eric Holder instituted a new policy significantly curtailing, though by no means abolishing, equitable sharing. Sessions has now reversed Holder’s policy, and fully reinstated equitable sharing.

The situation might potentially get even worse than it was in the pre-Holder era, because Sessions also seeks to expand the federal role in the War on Drugs, including even ramping up marijuana prosecutions in states that have legalized it. The War on Drugs is a major source of federally-sponsored asset forfeitures. The restoration of equitable sharing, combined with greater aggressiveness in the War on Drugs, will create many more opportunities for asset forfeitures, and ensure the victimization of many more innocent people.

In fairness, Sessions’ policy includes a few modest safeguards for property owners:

[quote] The Justice Department did include several requirements that it says will safeguard the due process rights of property owners. The directives require state and local police to provide additional information showing probable cause that a crime occurred before federal authorities will adopt the seizure. Seizures of under $10,000 will have to be accompanied by a warrant, a related arrest, or the seizure of contraband. Absent those provisions, a U.S. attorney would have to sign off on an adoption.[/b]

I doubt these restrictions will do much to curb abuses. A showing of “probable cause” is a long way from actually convicting anyone of a crime, and the alleged crime in question does not even have to be committed by the person whose property is seized. It is also notable that most of the restrictions can be set aside if a US attorney decides to sign off on the adoption anyway. As conservative Republican Rep. Darrell Issa puts it, “I’m glad that at least some safeguards will be put in place, but their plan to expand civil forfeiture is, really, just as concerning as it was before.”

Radley Balko rightly points out that Sessions’ new policy is a menace to federalism as well as property rights. Many states have enacted reforms preventing law enforcement agencies from profiting from asset forfeitures, thereby reducing incentives to seize the property of people who have not been convicted of any crimes. Equitable sharing circumvents these state laws, by enabling police to profit from seizures through payments funneled through the federal government. As a result, law enforcement agencies will have incentives to prioritize drug cases that are likely to net them money over violent crime and other objectives that state governments might value more.

Control over the funding and priorities of state and local law enforcement is a core element of state sovereignty. Sessions’ asset forfeiture policy is a frontal attack on it. Sadly, this undermining of federalism is of a piece with his positions on sanctuary cities (where Sessions is a leading advocate of Trump’s efforts to undermine constitutional federalism in this area) and marijuana enforcement (where Sessions wants to ride roughshod over states that have legalized pot).

Sessions’ eagerness to sacrifice federalism and property rights to the War on Drugs was entirely predictable, based on his longstanding record prior to becoming attorney general. It was among the reasons why I urged the Senate to “just say no” to his nomination for the position of attorney general. At least for the moment, we are stuck with Sessions. But hopefully it is not too late for the country to “just say no” to his ill-conceived asset forfeiture policy.

Onward and upward,
airforce

Posts: 16933 | From: Tulsa | Registered: Jan 2002  | Report this post to a Moderator
airforce
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There's talk all over the news, speculating on if and when Trump is going to fire Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. Well, just off the top of my head, I can think of half a dozen reasons why Trump should fire him, and none of them have anything to do with Sessions recusing himself.

The top of the list? Civil asset forfeitures.

Onward and upward,
airforce

Posts: 16933 | From: Tulsa | Registered: Jan 2002  | Report this post to a Moderator
Flight-ER-Doc
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Number one is civil asset theft, number 2 is is attitude about marijuana. I don't use the stuff, don't like it, but making criminals of those who do hasn't worked for longer than I've been alive so we need to do something else, not more of the same bad stuff.

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Emergency Medicine - saving the world from themselves, one at a time.

"Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander."

I make the ADL soil themselves. And that makes me very happy :)

Posts: 1914 | From: Slipping the surly bonds of earth | Registered: Dec 2004  | Report this post to a Moderator
airforce
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Number three would be his love for mandatory minimums. Just why should a nonviolent drug offender have to spend decades in prison?

Onward and upward,
airforce

Posts: 16933 | From: Tulsa | Registered: Jan 2002  | Report this post to a Moderator
airforce
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13 reasons Jeff Sessions is a @$#/! About three minutes.

Onward and upward,
airforce

Posts: 16933 | From: Tulsa | Registered: Jan 2002  | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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