It seems like every week, Jeff Sessions is determined to make headlines with statements and actions that not only baffle but also outrage the American people. Well, this week will be no different, folks, because the Attorney General is at it again. This time, he has stated that he will be issuing an initiative to increase police seizures of cash and property. This practice, also called asset forfeiture, is widely-disputed as it allows law enforcement agents to take cash and property from individuals that are suspected of committing a crime.
All it takes is the suspicion of wrongdoing to risk having your cash and items taken by the police. Charges don’t necessarily have to be filed to grant police this authority over a person’s belongings. In most states, and at the federal level, this is a protected practice. In some areas of the country, asset forfeiture makes up for a significant portion of police budgets. If that outrages you, you aren’t alone. Many critics simply call this practice theft. It’s not hard to see why. In 2014, federal law enforcement agents took more cash and property from citizens than burglars did.
Since 2007, the DEA has taken more than $3.2 billion worth of cash and assets from citizens who literally did nothing wrong-or at least, were never charged with anything.
Of his ambition to increase these seizures, Sessions stated in a prepared statement 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. Adoptive forfeitures are appropriate as is sharing with our partners.”
Sure, criminals shouldn’t be able to keep items or cash obtained through illegal means. That makes sense, and on its own is not the problem here. The problem lies in the fact that you don’t even have to have committed any crime, or obtained anything through illegal means, to have your stuff taken from your possession. What is deemed as “suspicious” is up to each individual officer, and is sometimes fueled by nothing more than personal bias.
When Sessions speaks of adoptive forfeitures, he is referring to the practice of allowing local authorities to share the proceeds from these seizures of cash and assets with federal agencies. This means that area authorities are able to conduct asset forfeitures under the more lax regulations of federal law. When press attempted to reach out to Sessions and the Department of Justice for comment, they were unsuccessful.
Currently, only thirteen US states consider criminal charges to be a necessary precursor to any kind of asset forfeiture.
Photo by Daquella manera