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 proving 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 has enabled local and state police to make seizures and then have them “adopted” by federal agencies, which share in the proceeds. 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.
I wrote about this outrageous abuse of government and police power in 2012. It is an ethics disgrace of long-standing; why Holder was moved to take this action now (and not his first day on the job), I can’t imagine: maybe he wanted to finally do something as he leaves Justice that makes up in some small measure for his atrocious leadership. It doesn’t matter: seldom has the phrase better late than never been more apt. I’ll attempt to overlook the millions of dollars worth of property stolen from innocent citizens by the government over the last six years and give Holder his due now. He did the right thing.
14 thoughts on “Holder Does The Right Thing. Finally.”
If Holder did the right thing, it was probably for a wrong reason which will make itself known in due course. Call me cynical…!
You’re cynical. You know what they say about stopped clocks…
Glenn Reynolds is a cynic too, but he could be right:
Stopped clocks? Fix ’em or junk ’em. And you can’t fix Holder!
I hate to be cynical but there has to be a nefarious reason. Someone he actually cares about or a DNC donor must about to have this applied to them. It can’t be because it was the right thing to do, he has missed too many other opportunities to demonstrate that he has honor or gives one wit about anything other than politics.
I am glad he did it but I suspect I won’t like why he did it when it comes to light.
I figure, what with Ferguson and all, cops are on nearly all the violently lefty’s shit lists anyway. He doesn’t want to ACTUALLY slow them down – the administration still needs its enforcement arm. This will appear to be kicking the police while they’re down before cop-hating goes back out of style. (I can’t decide if the military is next, due to the increased focus on foreign relations and Islam, or if the hubbub over Charlie Hebdo’s free speech will necessitate some sort of net-neutrality smokescreen.) Bonus, it’s something good, so any complaints or suspicions come with a built-in “Oh, so you want the cops to be able to do this?” shield. That it has anything to do with actual justice is purely incidental.
The Post article makes it clear that this highway patrol brigandage has been practiced for more than 10 years. I believe the robberies came to light last year when a New Yorker writer gave detailed accounts of the seizures practiced in Texas, including testimony by police officers justifying their actions. I don’t think Holder connived at the seizures; he was just late to stop it. And has Congress–ever–hold hearings about the civil forfeitures?
I wonder how many of those 55,000 were seizures that stood, despite the victim being cleared of any wrongdoing.
I always wondered how such seizures were Constitutional. I understand the concept that a person should forfeit ill gotten gains but only after due process.
In my opinion, the money derived from any forfeiture should go to the general fund and not to a specific agency charged with enforcement. The mere appearance of impropriety should have been enough to ban the practice of “equitable sharing”.
Ran across this many, many years ago. Not personally, but a cop at an exposition here in Texas was proudly displaying a Jaguar XK J, I think it was that the police department had confiscated. According to the cop, the confiscation was backed by Federal law, and had been found to be Constitutional by SCOTUS. The drug dealer was awaiting trial, and the Jag had been painted bright red with “D.A.R.E. To Say No” in canary yellow on the door. I never looked into it particularly, but what little I did find indicated that if your property was confiscated under this program, you had to go to court to get it back…maybe…even if you were exonerated.
You should see the cigarette boats that the DEA/Coast Guard had at Roosevelt Roads naval station. I’ll never forget this one bust. I was stationed at NSWU-4 at the time, and the USCGC Nunivac intercepted a small freighter that had a couple of these boats zipping around. They couldn’t catch them, of course, but the 25mm across their bows gave them incentive to stop. They brought back bales of something, looking to be about the size of a standard moving box. They were stacked about 15 feet high at harbor ops, with about a 25f by 25 ft footprint, at least. I figured it was pot. I was stunned to hear that this was cocaine. I didn’t think that there was that much cocaine in the world! Apparently, that size bust is not extremely rare.
Joe, don’t get me wrong…I have no problem with illegal drugs being confiscated. If, however, a dealer gets busted downtown, and the Fed gets to confiscates his house, out in one of the better neighborhoods, that’s just wrong. Further, getting the house back, if the guy is exonerated is problematic.
From what I’ve heard, you’d probably spend much more than your property’s value trying to get it back. A pretty seamless racket.
I first read about this asset seizure thing decades ago. Like many other commenters and followers here, I am sure, my very first reaction was, “Yeah, maybe a profitable way to intimidate or slow down some drug traffickers, but it’s unconstitutional as hell.” (Since then, of course, hell has become much more constitutional.) I also expected the practice to be challenged in courts and banned not long after the program began. Silly me! Doesn’t this case of Holder-doing-the-right-thing-finally actually make clear how almost immortal, and insidiously unstoppable, even the most unjust and even criminal federal policy can be?