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DOJ Seized $1.8 Billion Through Civil Forfeiture in 2015

DOJ Seized $1.8 Billion Through Civil Forfeiture in 2015
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Thursday, 31 August 2017 10:36 AM Current | Bio | Archive

In 2015, civil forfeiture procedures were used by the U.S. Department of Justice to seize $1.8 billion worth of assets from Americans.[1] This figure does not include takings by the U.S. Treasury Department or state and local governments.

Using these little-known procedures, "the government can take your home, business, cash, car or other property on the mere suspicion that it is somehow connected to criminal activity — and without ever convicting or even charging you with a crime."[2] Amazingly, the property can be seized "regardless of the owners’ guilt or innocence."[3]

As the Institute for Justice (IJ) notes, "Most people unfamiliar with this process would find it hard to believe that such a power exists" in the United States. In a recent report, the institute stated that "civil forfeiture threatens the constitutional rights of all Americans."[2]

A 1984 law allows government agencies to keep the money and other assets they seize. "Not surprisingly," according to the institute, "the use of forfeiture at the federal and state levels exploded once profit incentives kicked in. And tales of abuse began to pour in."[2]

A 2014 study by The Washington Post found that since 9/11, there were 61,998 instances when cash was taken "on highways and elsewhere . . . without search warrants or indictments." State and local governments kept $1.7 billion of the money, while "Justice, Homeland Security and other federal agencies received $800 million." According to the Post, "Half of the seizures were below $8,800."[4]

According to National Review, "Asset forfeiture creates an obvious conflict of interest for law-enforcement agencies," adding, "Because the proceeds go into their budgets, they have a vested interest in maximizing the use of forfeiture in their jurisdictions."[5] The scale of that vested interest was confirmed by the Washington Post finding that seized funds provide more than 20 percent of the entire budget for more than 500 agencies.[4]

More information can be found in the Institute for Justice's report "Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture."

Proponents of civil forfeiture argue that safeguards, such as the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act (CAFRA), have been put in place to prevent seizures from innocent people and to allow individuals to challenge a seizure.[6] Federal prosecutor Stefan Cassella, author of "Asset Forfeiture Law in the United States," also argues that "seizures of property for forfeiture are governed by the same rules that govern seizure of property for evidence  — the search and seizure requirements of the Fourth Amendment."[7]

Cassella maintains that forfeiture laws allow the government to seize contraband, property used to commit crimes, and profits obtained through crime. Others who support civil forfeiture laws include U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In a recent speech, he stated that "with care and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures. No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime."[8]

Footnotes:

  1. Institute for Justice analysis of DOJ forfeiture data obtained by FOIA, confirmed in email dated August 28
  2. Institute for Justice, "Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture, 2nd Edition," accessed August 30, 2017 (Foreword)
  3. Institute for Justice, "Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture, 2nd Edition," accessed August 30, 2017 (Executive Summary)
  4. The Washington Post, "Stop and seize: Aggressive police take hundreds of millions of dollars from motorists not charged with crimes," September 6, 2014
  5. National Review, "Civil Asset Forfeiture: Where Due Process Goes to Die," June 25, 2017
  6. National Public Radio, "Cash Seizures by Police Prompt Court Fights," June 16, 2008
  7. The Federalist Society, "Forfeiture is Reasonable, and It Works," May 1, 1997
  8. Washington Post, "Jeff Sessions wants police to take more cash from American citizens," July 17, 2017

    Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day is published by Ballotpedia. Each weekday, Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day explores interesting and newsworthy topics at the intersection of culture, politics, and technology.

    Scott Rasmussen is a Senior Fellow for the Study of Self-Governance at the King’s College in New York and an Editor-At-Large for Ballotpedia, the Encyclopedia of American Politics. His most recent book, "Politics Has Failed: America Will Not," was published by the Sutherland Institute in May.To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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The figure does not include takings by the Treasury Department or state and local governments. The government can take your property on suspicion that it is somehow connected to criminal activity, without ever convicting or even charging you with a crime.
criminal, justice, procedures
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2017-36-31
Thursday, 31 August 2017 10:36 AM
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