DOJ Reinstates Asset Forfeiture in Drug Law Enforcement
The US Justice Department Wednesday announced another reversal from The Hussein Obama Admin that makes it easier for local law enforcement to seize cash and property from crime suspects and reap the proceeds.
USAG Jeff Sessions earlier this week signaled the shift that will increase the use of asset forfeiture, especially for drug suspects.
The practice has been criticized because it allows law enforcement to take possessions, such as cars and money without indictments or evidence a crime has been committed.
“With care and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures. No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime,” AG Sessions told local prosecutors in Minnesota.
The change is another reversal by AG Sessions of Hussein Obama-era DOJ policies.
His Democratic predecessor Eric Holder had tightened control of the department’s asset forfeiture operations amid concerns that property could be seized without judicial oversight and without the owner ever being charged with a crime.
Mr. Holder restricted the ability of the federal government to take possession of, or adopt, assets seized by local authorities, who could then share in the proceeds with their federal counterparts.
AG Sessions Monday said such practice, aka adoptive forfeiture, is “appropriate, as is sharing with our partners.”
The statement drew a round of applause from the hundreds of county attorneys and law enforcement officials inside a Minneapolis Convention Center.
Local law enforcement agencies use forfeited proceeds to pay for expenses, and some had complained that Mr. Holder’s policy left them without a Key source of funding.
But that policy was designed to save federal resources for larger, complex investigations where the ability to seize assets is critical, such as cases involving national money laundering or Russian organized crime.
Rep. Darrell Issa, (R-CA), noted that many states have taken steps to rein in such seizures, often requiring that they be linked to a criminal conviction, but the federal move amounts to an end-run around those efforts.
The Justice Department sees the assets forfeiture program as a way to strip suspects of the proceeds of their activities, to deter crime and to compensate crime victims. An effort to expand it is in keeping with AG Sessions’ tough-on-crime agenda, which he continued to espouse during Monday’s speech.
He implored prosecutors to pursue the toughest punishments against most crime suspects, echoing a directive he issued earlier this year to US Attorneys. He reiterated his top priorities: cracking down on illegal immigration and quashing violent crime.
AG Sessions stressed the need to tackle gang activity where data show a recent uptick in violent crime. And he encouraged prosecutors to go after drug offenders, because “drug offenses are not nonviolent crimes, as most of you all know.”
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