Forfeiture Resurrected

DOJ pushes ahead

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The Department of Justice has restored a program that allows it to partner with local law enforcement agencies, seize money and property from raids, and then redistribute the assets back to those police departments.

This program, known as "equitable sharing," incentivizes "policing for profit" by pushing cops to focus on enforcing laws that give them the opportunity to seize assets, rather than laws against crimes that actually harm others. Furthermore, it allows local law enforcement agencies to bypass state-level restrictions on how property may be seized and distributed. The byzantine bureaucratic process that puts property and not a person on trial is designed to make it difficult for those targeted to fight back.

Police often seize assets from people without ever charging—let alone convicting—them with a crime, knowing how hard it will be for citizens to recover their property. Under the Justice Department's guidelines, police can keep up to 80 percent of what they seize.

Payments from the program were suspended in December because the federal omnibus legislation cut hundreds of billions in funding. But in March, Washington Post reporter Christopher Ingraham shared an email from the Justice Department announcing the program's return, "effective immediately."

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NEXT: Recommended reading: G. Edward White, 'Law in American History, Volume II, from Reconstruction through the 1920s'

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  1. Tell the police to take a hike. They are addicted to profiting from antiquated, unconstitutional forfeiture law. Their reps have repeatedly hijacked efforts to re-legalize marijuana, by showing up ‘en masse’ and playing ‘tough cop’ in legislators’ offices just before a vote.

    “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the anti-war left and black people. We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting people to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, break up their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” –John Erlichman

    Prohibition of marijuana is a premise built on a tissue of lies: Concern For Public Safety. Our new laws save hundreds of lives every year, on our highways alone. In November of 2011, a study at the University of Colorado found that, in the thirteen states that decriminalized marijuana between 1990 and 2009, traffic fatalities have dropped by nearly nine percent?now nearly ten percent in Michigan?more than the national average, while sales of beer went flat by five percent. No wonder Big Alcohol opposes it. Ambitious, unprincipled, profit-driven undertakers might be tempted too.

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