institute for justice

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U.S.: DOJ Suspends Asset Forfeiture Equitable Sharing; Police Take More Than Thieves

AssetForfeitureProgramDEA(patch)

Federal Sharing Linked to Circumvention of State Reforms

The Department of Justice on Monday released a memorandum addressed to local, state, and tribal law enforcement agencies to announce that the equitable sharing program for asset forfeiture funds has been temporarily suspended due to financial considerations.

This means that state and local law enforcement can no longer expect to receive a share of federal funds confiscated through the process of civil asset forfeiture, a method by which law enforcement can seize property and money from individuals without charging them with a crime.

Until now, the Department of Justice’s Equitable Sharing Program allowed departments to keep up to 80 percent of assets seized in joint operations, a practice scholars have shown allows local agencies to circumvent reforms in their own states. At least one estimate puts the amount of assets confiscated by law enforcement agencies in 2014 above the total amount of robberies, suggesting, according to Reason Magazine, that “Your local police or sheriff's department is more likely to take your stuff than a robber.”

U.S.: New Bill Would Cut Off Federal Forfeiture Funds For DEA Marijuana Raids

CivilAssetForfeitureIWantYourPropertyUncleSam[TheDailySheeple]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A new bill with bipartisan support would eliminate one controversial source of funding for a federal marijuana seizure program.

The "Stop Civil Asset Forfeiture Funding for Marijuana Suppression Act," introduced by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) would prevent the Drug Enforcement Administration from using federal forfeiture funds to pay for its Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program, reports Nick Sibilla at Forbes. The bill would additionally ban transferring property to federal, state or local agencies if that property "is used for any purpose pertaining to" the DEA's marijuana eradication program.

The DEA gets millions of dollars annually under this program; the take was $18 million in 2013. It then funnels the cash to more than 120 state and local agencies to "eliminate marijuana grow sites" nationwide.

Last year, the program was responsible for more than 6,300 arrests, eradicating more than 4.3 million marijuana plants, and seizing $27.3 million in assets. More than half of all those plants were destroyed in California, which also accounted for more than a third of the seized assets and nearly 40 percent of the arrests.

California: Bill To Rein In Forfeiture Abuses Sails Through Senate On 38-1 Vote

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Overwhelming Bipartisan Support for Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Nationwide Gains Momentum with Sacramento Vote

Civil asset forfeiture reform legislation, authored by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), on Wednesday won nearly unanimous approval in the California State Senate with a 38-1 vote.

Co-sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance, ACLU and the Institute for Justice, SB 443 will require law enforcement agencies in the State of California to adhere to state laws regarding civil asset forfeiture, rather than transferring cases to federal prosecutors and courts where property rights and evidentiary standards are much lower.

SB 443 also calls for appointing counsel for indigent property owners and allows the recovery of attorney’s fees for successful challenges. Additionally, the bill will protect guiltless spouses and family members from loss of property, and result in increased investment in the General Fund, in courts, and in public defense for the indigent, as well as funding for law enforcement and prosecutors.

“Asset forfeiture inflicts the harsh punishments associated with criminal proceedings without the constitutional protections guaranteed by a trial," said Lynne Lyman, California state director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "In practice, this means encouraging law enforcement to engage in questionable and unethical practices under the banner of the war on drugs.

"Today’s vote is a tremendous step in the right direction,” Lyman said.

Minnesota: State Rep Says Cops Are Hooked On Drug War Dollars

RepCarlyMelin(DFL-Minnesota)

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Minnesota state Rep. Carly Melin, who is pushing to legalize medical marijuana, said that negotiating with the state's law enforcement leaders has been "like negotiating with a brick wall," and she believes police agencies are hooked on Drug War dollars.

"All along I have said that I am willing to amend the bill," Rep. Melin (DFL-Hibbing) said, reports Mike Mosedale at Politics In Minnesota. "But they won't move at all."

Rep. Melin told of a particularly frustrating meeting last November with representatives of the powerful Minnesota Law Enforcement Coalition. "They wouldn't discuss any specific provisions, and said they had a blanket opposition to medical marijuana," Hibbing said.

Melin took particular note of one objection voice at the meeting, but not mentioned in the Law Enforcement Coalition's 10-page white paper: worry over the impact medical marijuana legalization might have on police budgets.

Dennis Flaherty, the executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (a group included in the Law Enforcement Coalition), told her that he was worried that medical marijuana legalization could lead to reductions in the federal grants that are a big source of money for many police departments, Melin said.

"I don't think it's part of the debate because they wouldn't publicly admit that it's even an issue," Melin said. "Nobody wants to question the motives or honesty of law enforcement."

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