Civil asset forfeiture is one of the most unethical and barbaric practices routinely performed by law enforcement in these United States today. Naturally, the Department of Justice is doing everything it can to protect the practice.
When I say that the rule of law is dead in America, I am not exaggerating. In fact, with each passing day it becomes increasingly obvious that the Justice Department not only has no interest in justice, it appears to view its primary role as coddling and protecting lawlessness amongst the so-called “elite” and their minions.
Today’s post proves the point once again. The state of California is in the process of passing a civil asset forfeiture bill, and in response, the DOJ is providing talking points to the California District Attorneys’ Association so that it can more effectively fight the bill. All of this after the DOJ had previously expressed faux support for civil asset forfeiture reform.
At the beginning of this year, Attorney General Eric Holder attempted to close an exploitable loophole in asset forfeiture laws. State and local law enforcement agencies often sought federal “adoption” of seizures in order to route around statutes that dumped assets into general funds or otherwise limited them from directly profiting from these seizures. By partnering with federal agencies, local law enforcement often saw bigger payouts than with strictly local forfeitures.
The loophole closure still had its own loopholes (seizures for “public safety,” various criminal acts), but it did make a small attempt to straighten out some really perverted incentives. But deep down inside, it appears the DOJ isn’t really behind true forfeiture reform. In fact, it seems to be urging local law enforcement to fight these efforts by pointing out just how much money these agencies will “lose” if they can’t buddy up with Uncle Sam.
A cache of documents uncovered by the Institute for Justice today demonstrate that federal law enforcement officials in the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Treasury are collaborating with local law enforcement organizations in California to undermine efforts to reform the state’s civil forfeiture laws. The California District Attorneys Association is circulating a set of emails from officials with the DOJ and Treasury indicating that the federal government would disqualify the state from receiving funds from the federal Equitable Sharing Program if it passes the pending reforms. The documents also reveal that the DOJ has already disqualified New Mexico from participating in the program, following passage of a sweeping civil forfeiture reform bill this spring.
The DOJ’s insertion into the legislative process begins with talking points delivered in emails that stress the amount of money agencies will be “losing” if they’re no longer allowed to federalize seizures. The documents show members of the Treasury Department affirming that California’s reform will “force” the DOJ to cut state law enforcement agencies out of the loop — supposedly because the Mother Ship can’t secure convictions fast enough.
Citing “resources, desire, or technical capability,” Treasury Executive Office for Asset Forfeiture Legal Counsel Melissa Nasrah wrote in an email to Santa Barbara Senior Deputy District Attorney Lee Carter, “I highly doubt our federal agencies can figure out whether a conviction occurred in any timely manner,” and “it seems the legislation, in effect, takes decision-making authority away from Treasury. Accordingly, I think I would still advise our policy officials here that it would be prudent to not share with CA agencies should this law be passed.”
Sure enough, the “warnings” from the feds are echoed in a letter from the California District Attorneys’ Association in opposition of the bill. The association expresses its abject dismay at the fact that law enforcement agencies might actually have to secure convictions to hold onto seized assets. According to the CDAA, asset forfeiture without accompanying convictions is a must because indictments and jail time alone aren’t punitive enough.
The current version of the bill would essentially deny every law enforcement agency in California direct receipt of any forfeited assets. California’s asset forfeiture law will be changed for the worse, and it will cripple the ability of law enforcement to forfeit assets from drug dealers when arrest and incarceration is an incomplete strategy for combatting drug trafficking.
That the DOJ has decided to pile on — despite its nominal reform efforts — is also less than shocking. After all, it takes a cut from every “adopted” investigation — all the while enabling local entities to bypass statutory safeguards meant to keep the abuse of civil forfeiture to a minimum.
To read the entire letter from the California District Attorneys’ Association, go to the end of the TechDirt article.
In case you still aren’t convinced of the unethical and unconstitutional nature of civil asset forfeiture, i.e., police theft, check out the following: