Frequent readers of this blog will remember an earlier post about asset forfeiture. For those that do not, civil asset forfeiture is a government program that allows for the seizure of personal property of those suspected of drug crimes. These properties are later sold at auction and the funds are returned to the pockets of the police to continue the war on drugs.
The practice has fallen under scrutiny for the ease with which the power can be corrupted, and how the action borders on being unconstitutional. The practice has recently come under fire from outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, who barred state and federal police forces from seizing property under federal law without a warrant or proof of a crime being committed.
While this doesn’t put an end to the Civil Asset Forfeiture Law, it does limit the abilities of the program that has existed for the past three decades. In a statement released by Holder, Holder remarked, “With this new policy, effective immediately, the Justice Department is taking an important step to prohibit federal agency adoptions of state and local seizures, except for public safety reasons,”
Exceptions to this rule cover primarily illegal firearms, ammunition, explosives and items associated with child pornography.
This barring limits nearly all vehicle and cash seizures. While this doesn’t end forfeitures protected by individual state laws, it is a great step forward in ending asset forfeitures and takes away much of the incentive that leads to many unnecessary stops and seizures, according to justice department officials.
Cara Tangaro, Salt Lake City, Utah Criminal Defense Attorney