Did "Stealing From Americans" Just Stop? AG Holder Moves To End Civil Asset Forfeiture

Since 2011, we have been warning of the rise of 'civil asset forfeiture' (here) with the 'stealing of American's hard-earned assets' having been on the rise signficantly in recent months; as the apparent final stage of empire begins. However, in an odd apparent success for "safeguarding civil liberties," Reuters reports that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said today that State and local police in the United States will no longer be able to use federal laws to justify seizing property without evidence of a crime.

 

As a reminder, Mike Krieger explains what civil asset forfeiture is...

In a nutshell, civil forfeiture is the practice of confiscating items from people, ranging from cash, cars, even homes based on no criminal conviction or charges, merely suspicion.

 

This practice first became widespread for use against pirates, as a way to take possession of contraband goods despite the fact that the ships’ owners in many cases were located thousands of miles away and couldn’t easily be prosecuted. As is often the case, what starts out reasonable becomes a gigantic organized crime ring of criminality, particularly in a society where the rule of law no longer exists for the “elite,” yet anything goes when it comes to pillaging the average citizen.

 

One of the major reasons these programs have become so abused is that the police departments themselves are able to keep much of the confiscated money. So they actually have a perverse incentive to steal. As might be expected, a program that is often touted as being effective against going after major drug kingpins, actually targets the poor and disenfranchised more than anything else.

While this epidemic of law enforcement theft is problematic throughout the country (see these egregious examples from Tennessee and Michigan), it appears Texas has a particularly keen love affair with the practice. Not only did last year’s story take place in Texas, today’s highlighted episode also takes place in the Lone Star State. This time in a town of 150 people called Estelline, which earns more than 89% of its gross revenues from traffic fines and forfeitures. In other words, from theft.

 

And so, today's news appears positive...

 

(As Reuters reports),

State and local police in the United States will no longer be able to use federal laws to justify seizing property without evidence of a crime, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Friday.

 

The practice of local police taking property, including cash and cars, from people that they stop, and of handing it over to federal authorities, became common during the country's war on drugs in the 1980s.

 

Holder cited "safeguarding civil liberties" as a reason for the change in policy.

 

The order directs federal agencies who have collected property during such seizures to withdraw their participation, except if the items collected could endanger the public, as in the case of firearms.

 

Holder said the ban was the first step in a comprehensive review the Justice Department has launched of the program.

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As WaPo adds,

Holder’s decision allows some limited exceptions, including illegal firearms, ammunition, explosives and property associated with child pornography, a small fraction of the total. This would eliminate virtually all cash and vehicle seizures made by local and state police from the program.

 

A Justice official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the attorney general’s motivation, said Holder “also believes that the new policy will eliminate any possibility that the adoption process might unintentionally incentivize unnecessary stops and seizures.”

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While it may be a little early to call the total end of 'civil asset forfeitures', it appears to have just become more difficult for American police forces to steal their citizens' cash and assets.