asset forfeiture

U.S.: Congressmen Urge AG Sessions to Reconsider DOJ Policies on Asset Forfeiture

U.S.: Congressmen Urge AG Sessions to Reconsider DOJ Policies on Asset Forfeiture

By Michael Bachara
Hemp News

On August 4, Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and John Conyers (D-MI) sent the following letter to United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions to express concerns and objections to his proposal to expand the Department of Justice’s civil asset forfeiture program. The letter also urges AG Sessions to reconsider his newly-announced policies.

U.S.: House Judiciary Committee Unanimously Approves Law Helping Fight Asset Forfeiture

AssetForfeiture[FreedomWorks]

Legislation Eases Burden of Contesting a Government Forfeiture and Raises Government’s Burden to Keep Property

Advocates Caution that the Bill Will Not End Policing-for-Profit

The U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary on Wednesday unanimously approved asset forfeiture reform legislation.

Known as the DUE PROCESS Act (H.R. 5283) and sponsored by Crime Subcommittee Chairman Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Representative Tim Walberg (R-MI), Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL) and others, the bill makes important procedural reforms that will help give property owners fighting a federal civil asset forfeiture action greater leverage to contest a government seizure and increases the federal government's burden of proof in civil forfeiture proceedings.

The DUE PROCESS Act, however, currently does not address the “policing for profit” incentive issue.

Utah: Poll Shows Strong Support For Asset Forfeiture Reform On Eve Of Primary

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One out of 11 Surveyed Utah Voters Report Having Property Taken by Police without Criminal Charge from Themselves or Someone They Know

Utah Voters Also Signal Support for Presidential Candidates Who Embrace Asset Forfeiture Reform

An overwhelming majority of registered Utah voters support civil asset forfeiture reform, according to a new poll released by Drug Policy Action. The poll was released the day before Utah’s primary election vote.

Eighty-three percent (83%) of Utah registered voters, including 83 percent of all Republicans, think police should not be able to seize and permanently take away property from people who have not been convicted of a crime. Sixty-six percent (66%) of voters polled, including 70 percent of Republicans, would be more likely to support a candidate for president who took the position that the government should not be able to take property from a person who has not been convicted of a crime.

Also, a high number of surveyed Utah voters (1 out of 11) reported that a police officer has taken property from them or someone they know without being charged with a crime. Most of these respondents said that property was taken from them during a traffic stop.

Florida: Poll Shows Strong Support For Asset Forfeiture Reform; Bill Heads To Gov's Desk

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An overwhelming majority of registered Florida voters support civil asset forfeiture reform, according to a new poll released by Drug Policy Action. Eighty-four percent of Florida registered voters, including 86 percent of all Republicans and 81 percent of independents, think police should not be able to seize and permanently take away property from people who have not been convicted of a crime.

Sixty-six percent of voters polled, including 65 percent of Republicans and 68 percent of Democrats, would be more likely to support a candidate for president who took the position that the government should not be able to take property from a person who has not been convicted of a crime.

“The notion that police officers can take cash or other property from people never charged with any criminal wrongdoing and keeping any profits from the sale of seized property doesn’t sit well with the public,” said Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs for Drug Policy Action. “Voters want action on civil asset forfeiture.

"Governor Scott should sign the reform legislation on his desk, and presidential candidates would be wise to address the issue,” Smith said.

The Florida House of Representatives on Wednesday unanimously passed SB 1044, reforming Florida’s “Contraband Forfeiture Act,” sending the legislation to Gov. Scott’s desk for a signature. Last week the Florida Senate passed the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes, in a 38–0 vote.

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

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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.”

California: Bipartisan Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Dies On Assembly Floor

CivilAssetForfeitureCartoon[FreedomWorks]

Senator Holly Mitchell’s Bill, SB 443, Would Have Required Conviction Before Forfeiture

Civil asset forfeiture reform legislation authored by state Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and David Hadley (R-Torrance) failed to pass the California Assembly floor on Thursday after extraordinary efforts by law enforcement to defeat it, including personal calls to legislators’ cell phones and other scare tactics.

Despite bipartisan support and nearly unanimous votes at every previous juncture, SB 443 could not survive the Assembly floor vote on Thursday. However, the bill was granted reconsideration, meaning it can be taken up for another floor vote tomorrow, the final day of session, if the authors so choose.

SB 443, which was co-sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance, ACLU and the Institute for Justice would have required a conviction in either state or federal court before property could be permanently forfeited to local law enforcement coffers.

“We are deeply disappointed, but not surprised, by the lack of courage shown by members of the Assembly today,” said Lynne Lyman, California state director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "Apparently many of our elected representatives do not want to uphold the due process protections guaranteed to us in the constitution. Instead, they voted to continue allowing local law enforcement to circumvent the heightened protections of state law in favor of a corrupt arrangement with the federal government.”

Colorado: Sensible Asset Forfeiture Proposal Fails In Senate

AssetForfeiture[FreedomWorks]

Advocates Reminded of the Often Undeserved Sway of Law Enforcement

This week an asset forfeiture reform proposal died in Colorado’s Senate Judiciary Committee. SB 006 aimed to join other states and the recent federal effort to curb the intrusive, arguably unconstitutional and financially distorted incentive practice of civil asset forfeiture.

State law provides people due process protections from state authorities seizing their property. However, local and state police often circumvent state law by turning seized assets over to federal authorities who then liquidate those assets and return the proceeds to local law enforcement.

SB 006 would have provided constitutional protections in the case of joint state and federal asset forfeiture proceedings -- requiring a conviction, mandating a pre-trial hearing and only allowing forfeiture proceedings for assets valued over $50,000. The bill attempted to deter frivolous and subjective forfeiture efforts by law enforcement.

The Drug Policy Alliance, ACLU of Colorado, Colorado Criminal Defense Institute, Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition and many local lawyers, victims and like-minded civilians testified in favor of the bill.

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