Jeff Sessions has brought back a controversial — Asset Forfeiture. While in theory, it sounds great, that people who are convicted by crimes should not get the property back which they’ve used it from — in practice — the type of asset-forfeiture that Jeff Sessions has been bringing back is civil-forfeiture.
“Federal adoption of all types of assets seized lawfully by state or local law enforcement under their respective state laws . . . whenever the conduct giving rise to the seizures violates federal law.”
Jeff Sessions’ expanded civil asset forfeiture policy is even being blasted by conservatives. Sessions has been taking a hard-lined on criminal stances, including his stance on prosecuting Medical Marijuana. Sessions personally asked Congress to let him prosecute medical-marijuana providers. Trump has contradicted his previous campaign stances on respecting the rule of law, and also his rhetoric during the campaign regarding state-governments and federalism. According to the Policing for Profit study, much of civil-asset forfeiture is designed by the federal government to circumvent state-laws and the proceeds go to law-enforcement, or the federal government.
Jeff Sessions has decided on bringing back the civil-asset forfeiture program. Although Jeff Sessions claims that he will implement reforms, it will be a far cry from what Eric Holder was setting out to do. Jeff Sessions wants to bring back the program and make it stronger. However, that was not the main problem with the program in the first place. Jeff Sessions’ expanded civil asset forfeiture policy is even being blasted by conservatives
“Essentially abandoned the forfeiture practice in 2015, amid complaints that it was prone to abuse and encouraged police departments to carry out seizures in order to win more funds to buy equipment and vehicles.”
Eric Holder went after the most corrupt practice in the program — “adoptive forfeiture” which would allow state law-enforcement agencies to go around local laws. Paula Reid stated on Twitter essentially
“JUST IN: DOJ new asset forfeiture policy – police can seize property from people not charged w/crime even in states where it’s been banned.”
According to Clarence Thomas, civil-asset Forfeiture,
“led to egregious and well-chronicled abuses…presumably would require the [Supreme Court] to align its distinct doctrine governing civil forfeiture with its doctrines governing other forms of punitive state action and property deprivation.”
Essentially, the government would have to get rid of trial by juries, have a different set of standard of proof and also get rid of procedural safeguards from the jury system to ensure its validity. Salon reports that Jeff Sessions seems to be interested in just getting more assets-forfeited.
Policing for Profit finds that most state laws, in fact 38 of them, require the owners of property to prove their innocence rather than the state. The State may only need to have preponderance of evidence or probable cause, few states have to establish that beyond a reasonable doubt that the party is guilty and in most cases once the state takes away the property it can retain it forever. The assets can either go to the State’s different branches of government, or, worse yet, it’ll fund the local law-branches.
Given these reasons, it is understandable why Civil-Asset-Forfeiture is drawing the criticism that it is. It’s a program with a very-grey legal area to it and with Jeff Sessions as the commander in Chief’s attack-dog in the executive branch, given his hard-lined stance it is reasonable to understand why some are concerned.