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    House Passes Amendments to Stop DOJ’s Civil Asset Forfeiture Program

    House Passes Amendments to Stop DOJ’s Civil Asset Forfeiture Program

    The one issue that brings everyone together!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PsB4Ykf888#action=share

    On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed amendments to stop the Department of Justice’s civil asset forfeiture program, which Attorney General Jeff Sessions introduced in July. The amendments received support from those within the House Freedom Caucus and some of the biggest liberals in Congress.

    Civil forfeiture remains a controversial issue in America since it’s “a process by which the government can take and sell your property without ever convicting, or even charging, you with a crime.” The procedures are civil, which means defendants do not receive the same protections given to criminal defendants.

    The Amendments

    Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) introduced an amendment to H.R. 3354, which is a funding bill for government agencies, to stop the DOJ’s latest civil asset forfeiture push.

    None of the funds made available by this Act may be used for activities prohibited by the order issued by the Attorney General entitled “Prohibition on Certain Federal Adoptions of Seizures by State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies” (Order No. 3488-2015, dayed January 16, 2015) or the order entitled “Prohibition on Certain Federal Adoptions of Seizures by State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies” (Order No. 3485-2015, dated January 12, 2015).

    Amash quickly picked up bipartisan support, including Mark Sanford (R-SC), Raul Labrador (R-ID), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Don Beyer (D-VA), and others for his amendment “that would prohibit the Trump administration from using funds to remove restrictions on the use of asset forfeiture.” From The Hill:

    Their amendment would specifically restrict the use of what’s known as “adoptive forfeiture,” which allows the federal government to take assets seized by local authorities.

    Critics say that the practice has allowed local authorities to circumvent state laws that were stricter than under federal statute. About two dozen states have laws that make it harder for authorities to seize property if a person has not been convicted of a crime.

    “This practice is outrageous. It supplants the authority of states to regulate their own law enforcement and it further mires the federal government in unconstitutional asset forfeitures,” Amash said during House floor debate.

    Rep. Jamie Raskins (D-MD), a sponsor of Amash’s amendment, also introduced an amendment to block funding to the DOJ. From Reason:

    Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Tim Walberg (R-MI) are asking for a change blocking the Justice Department from funding Sessions’ directive. The department’s forfeiture program existed prior to Sessions’ order, so it’s unclear what effects the amendments would have if passed.

    Raskins applauded the passage of the amendments on Twitter and reminded everyone that over 20 organizations from the left and right supports these amendments:

    The DOJ

    States have taken action to end civil asset forfeiture without a criminal conviction, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions has gone in the opposite direction. In July, he announced that the DOJ hoped to issue “policies to increase forfeitures.” Sessions stated at the time:

    While criminal gangs have been growing and are numerous, their numbers are finite. If we target them aggressively, we can reduce homicides and make our communities safer.

    In addition, we hope to issue this week a new directive on asset forfeiture—especially for drug traffickers. 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.

    Sessions has insisted that “civil asset forfeiture is a key tool that helps law enforcement defund organized crime, take back ill-gotten gains, and prevent new crimes from being committed, and it weakens the criminals and the cartels.”

    Sessions believes these funds that allegedly “were once used to take lives are now being used to save lives.” I use the word allegedly because the people who have had their funds and property seized are only under investigation. No court has convicted them.

    Under this new policy, the states and local authorities “provide additional information about the probable cause determination justifying the seizure.”

    This unravels the previous policy that former Attorney General Eric Holder implemented to change the DOJ’s forfeiture program. From CBS News:

    Holder namely restricted the ability of the federal government to take possession of, or adopt, assets seized by local authorities, who could then share in the proceeds with their federal counterparts. Civil liberties groups and some members of Congress praised the move as a step toward reform because that practice made it easier for local authorities to circumvent state laws that were sometimes stricter than the federal ones governing seizures.

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    Comments



     
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    healthguyfsu | September 13, 2017 at 1:17 pm

    Nice glory-hogging and partisan grandstanding from the left there.

    Never let an opportunity go to waste.

    I’m not a fan of the policy either, but I just hate it when these useful idiots get to gloat and try to pull an Obama (take credit for the accomplishments of others).


     
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    OleDirtyBarrister | September 13, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    The dual civil-criminal forfeiture system and the DOJ’s ability to opt from one to the other causes more mischief than people on the street can understand. You would have to go through the DOJ’s gamesmanship and all the trouble and expense it creates to really get the picture. I repped spouses and third party investors, etc. asserting their innocent spouse defense in white collar criminal cases only to see the DOJ have full reign to play games with the blessing of the federal judge. It is expensive to have a civil forfeiture action as a placeholder until they supplant it and proceed with a criminal forfeiture, and eats up the assets in issue so badly that it is not economical to fight. The cards are really stacked against a third party. If you have the misfortune of being economically involved with someone that draws the scorn of the feds, you may lose your investment, interest, or property because the game is so onerous and expensive.

    Crim defense lawyers with no civil litigation experience generally do not like getting involved in civil forfeiture proceedings not only because of concern about civil work, but also because of the prospect of blowing up their cost estimate and blowing through their retainer. They often get a fixed fee up front based on estimated hours and out of pocket costs. In contrast, civil litigation attorneys that do little criminal defense work are generally not comfortable with criminal forfeiture proceedings. Thus, the civil system puts pressure on persons to hire two types of lawyers.

      “The cards are really stacked against a third party. If you have the misfortune of being economically involved with someone that draws the scorn of the feds, you may lose your investment, interest, or property because the game is so onerous and expensive.”

      –and of course, the prosecutor *never* uses civil forfeiture to strip an innocent person of their savings in order to make the trial easier for the prosecution, or uses the threat of forfeiture against innocent third parties in order to force misleading testimony in their favor.
      /snark

      I’ve had the same complaint about ‘dynamic’ bail, where the bail amount seems to climb to match whatever the defendant can scrape up and then some. After all, the more money demanded for bail, the less for the defendant to do something embarrassing, like actually managing to afford a defense.

    “Their amendment would specifically restrict the use of what’s known as “adoptive forfeiture,” which allows the federal government to take assets seized by local authorities. Critics say that the practice has allowed local authorities to circumvent state laws that were stricter than under federal statute. About two dozen states have laws that make it harder for authorities to seize property if a person has not been convicted of a crime.”

    If civil forfeiture is so bad, then the proper action is to write a law forbidding it and getting that passed, signed and implemented.

    An amendment to not fund a specific form of civil forfeiture (the adoptive form) is a temporary action. It does not get rid of the problem and I think still allows this action to take place in the states which have not forbidden it.


     
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    OleDirtyBarrister | September 13, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    This controversy is a sad testament to the quality of the judiciary in this country and its commitment to upholding the express purpose and intent of the US Constitution. The federal courts have upheld the burden shifting attendant with civil seizure, holding that the procedures in place of making the owner/claimant prove the property is not the product of a criminal activity/enterprise comports with the DP Clause.

    Civil asset forfeiture has been encouraging malicious prosecution since the witchcraft era. It is an absolute abomination to the rule of law.


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