Thursday, January 22, 2015
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday barred local and state police from using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without evidence that a crime occurred. Holder’s action represents the most sweeping check on police power to confiscate personal property since the seizures began three decades ago as part of the war on drugs.
Since 2008, thousands of local and state police agencies have made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property worth $3 billion under a civil asset forfeiture program at the Justice Department called Equitable Sharing. [...] The program allowed police departments and drug task forces to keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds of the adopted seizures, with the rest going to federal agencies.
The program won’t end civil asset forfeiture abuses entirely, but it will stop local police agencies from circumventing state laws aimed at reining them in. Many states, for example, have imposed stricter evidentiary standards police have to meet before they’re allowed to seize assets without a conviction.