What is the world coming to? U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is steadily trying to take us back to the ’80s (I wouldn’t fault you if you thought I was talking about the 1880s, but slavery was over then, so … ).
Less than a week after saying that he wants the country to go back to the “Just say no” era as it relates to marijuana, on Monday, Sessions announced that he would be issuing a new directive increasing police seizures of cash and property, according to the Washington Post.
“We hope to issue this week a new directive on asset forfeiture—especially for drug traffickers,” Sessions said during a speech at the National District Attorneys Association in Minneapolis. “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.”
This “asset forfeiture” is a widely disputed practice that allows officials to take cash, cars, homes and whatever else you may have—even if you are merely suspected of a crime, even if you are not a drug trafficker.
In many cases, neither a criminal conviction nor even a criminal charge is necessary, and it takes a shit ton of money and years of litigation to try to get back what was taken.
On top of that, many states allow law enforcement to keep the cash it seizes, creating what critics characterize as a profit motive.
And, as the Post reported in 2015, in lean times, the police start seizing a lot more things. According to the Justice Department’s inspector general, the Drug Enforcement Administration alone has taken more than $3.2 billion in cash from people not charged with any crime. Criminal-justice reformers on both sides of the political spectrum have been speaking out about this type of abuse for years. The Post reports:
The practice is ripe for abuse. In one case in 2016, Oklahoma police seized $53,000 owned by a Christian band, an orphanage and a church after stopping a man on a highway for a broken taillight. A few years earlier, a Michigan drug task force raided the home of a self-described “soccer mom,” suspecting she was not in compliance with the state’s medical marijuana law. They proceeded to take “every belonging” from the family, including tools, a bicycle and her daughter’s birthday money.
In recent years, states have begun to clamp down on cash and asset seizure, and 13 states now allow forfeiture only in cases where there’s been a criminal conviction.
Unsurprisingly, Sessions is rolling back reforms instituted during the time President Barack Obama was in office. In 2015, then-Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department issued a memo sharply curtailing a particular type of forfeiture practice that allowed local police to share part of their forfeiture proceeds with federal authorities.
Known as “adoptive forfeiture,” which Sessions pointedly mentioned Monday, it allows state and local authorities to sidestep sometimes stricter state laws, processing forfeiture cases under the more permissive federal statute.
So basically, the ATM is open for all the cops and prosecutors, who are now incentivized (at least in 37 states) to take your shit and use it how they will, and we doubt any of it will be recorded on body cameras.
The real gang has just sounded the gong. And they ’bout to get paid.
Read more at the Washington Post.