Civil asset forfeiture is something that many people may not know about, but has effected people’s relationship with law enforcement in the past.
A lot has happened to Attorney General Jeff Sessions since the end of last week. The Washington Post is reporting that AG Sessions DID talk to Russia about the Trump campaign (even though in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee he swore he didn’t) and now President Donald Trump looks to have lost faith in his attorney general as well…
So why aren't the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 24, 2017
So you would be forgiven for not noticing that AG Sessions last week signed an order to encourage law enforcement to use civil asset forfeiture where necessary. This would reverse the Obama administration’s efforts to limit the practice. What actually is civil asset forfeiture and why does the Trump administration want to bring it back? Let’s take a look!
What is Civil Asset Forfeiture?
AG Sessions Issues Policy & Guidelines on Federal Adoptions of Assets Seized by State or Local Law Enforcement https://t.co/PqkPO0oH72
— Justice Department (@TheJusticeDept) July 19, 2017
It’s a practice where local police can legally sieve someone’s property (cash, cars, guns, ect.) without having to prove the guilt of the individual or organization in the court of law. In most cases of civil asset forfeiture, all law enforcement would need is probable cause that the assets they’re confiscating were attained through illegal means. Because of that, civil asset forfeiture is usually used as a tool when cracking down on drug offenders. In fact, this strategy of deterrence was most popular in the 1980’s during the height of the US’s War on Drugs. A well-known example of this would be the “DARE Cars” that police used to bring to schools to promote the DARE program.
However, since police department could keep the seized products as profit (departments would keep 80% of the monetary value of all goods), critics say this led to numerous instances where local officials would use civil asset forfeiture as a for-profit venture. As the Washington Post had found, police had taken hundreds of millions from motorists over multiple years, without them being charged with a crime. A report by the Justice Department had found that over a ten-year period (2007-2016), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had seized more than $3.2 billion (!!) in assets.
While it is true, that individuals could get their property back through court challenges and/or other legal avenues, in general, this process was usually costly and time consuming. More importantly, civil asset forfeitures decrease the public’s trust in law enforcement, which is vital for alternative methods – like community policing – to be successful. It’s a major reason why some states have completely done away with the practice. Yet, with the announcement from AG Jeff Sessions last week, states that had done away with the practice have been superseded by federal law.
Why Does the Trump Administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions Wants to Bring Civil Asset Forfeiture Back?
The reason for the Trump administration wanting to enforce the practice of civil asset forfeitures is a simple one. As the video above states, the Trump administration wants to be known as the “law and order” administration. The practice of civil asset forfeitures distinctly goes hand-in-hand with being viewed as being tough on crime. After all, what’s more impressive looking/sounding; curbing the crime rate through thoughtful community policing or having a press conference showcasing bricks of cocaine, guns, and fat stacks that you got through a drug bust?
For a presidential administration that fancies pomp-and-circumstance, the answer here is a simple one.
(Photo Credits: Pixabay.com, Google Images)