Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Get HideMyAss! VPN, PC Mag's Top 10 VPNs of 2016 for 55% off for a Limited Time ×
Government Crime The Almighty Buck The Courts United States

Justice Department Shuts Down Huge Asset Forfeiture Program 232

HughPickens.com writes: Christopher Ingraham reports at the Washington Post that the Department of Justice has announced that it's suspending a controversial asset forfeiture program that allows local police departments to keep a large portion of assets seized from citizens under federal law and funnel it into their own coffers. Asset forfeiture has become an increasingly contentious practice in recent years. It lets police seize and keep cash and property from people who are never convicted — and in many cases, never charged with wrongdoing. Recent reports have found that the use of the practice has exploded in recent years, prompting concern that, in some cases, police are motivated more by profits and less by justice. Criminal justice reformers are cheering the change. "This is a significant deal," says Lee McGrath, legislative counsel at the Institute for Justice. "Local law enforcement responds to incentives. And it's clear that one of the biggest incentives is the relative payout from federal versus state forfeiture. And this announcement by the DOJ changes the playing field for which law state and local [law enforcement] is going to prefer."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Justice Department Shuts Down Huge Asset Forfeiture Program

Comments Filter:
  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Saturday December 26, 2015 @06:26PM (#51187603)
    When the government steals they give it a nice sounding euphemism. When citizens steal they're called criminals and go to jail.
  • About fucking time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 26, 2015 @06:26PM (#51187609)

    Now give the ill gotten gains back

  • The Fine Print (Score:5, Informative)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Saturday December 26, 2015 @06:29PM (#51187621)

    From TFA:

    the Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program announced that it would defer all equitable sharing payments for forfeitures, both civil and criminal, to state, local, and tribal partners for the foreseeable future.

    They are still taking the money. Just not sharing it with local law enforcement.

    • Re:The Fine Print (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Saturday December 26, 2015 @07:25PM (#51187763)

      They are still taking the money. Just not sharing it with local law enforcement.

      So local law enforcement agencies will now have big holes in their budgets.

      So anyone want to guess how they will fill these holes? Raise local taxes . . . ? Raise the fines for traffic tickets, and hand out more tickets . . . ?

      At any rate, they are not going to get by with less money.

      • Re:The Fine Print (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LynnwoodRooster ( 966895 ) on Saturday December 26, 2015 @07:51PM (#51187857) Journal
        Getting rid of their "SWAT" team would probably save a ton of cash as well...
        • You mean the run of the mill police?
          Seriously they look like SWAT compared to most of the rest of the world's police. You know in some parts of the world the police don't even carry handguns.

      • Re:The Fine Print (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Saturday December 26, 2015 @09:13PM (#51188105) Homepage Journal

        So local law enforcement agencies will now have big holes in their budgets.

        From what I've read, proceeds from such forfeitures goes more towards 'toys' than actual law enforcement. We're talking about stuff like them replacing squad cars after 3 years, not 4, buying items like pop-corn machines and armored vehicles for their SWAT team that are never used.

        • Re:The Fine Print (Score:5, Interesting)

          by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Saturday December 26, 2015 @10:24PM (#51188317)

          and armored vehicles for their SWAT team that are never used.

          They get used alright, just not in situations where they are really needed. When you have police with military units you get a military response to minor crimes just so they have something to do. For example, even a sig like yours (or the postings of many over decades from BBS on, I'm not picking on you, they'd react the same way to you if it was someone else with the sig) would be seen as enough to link extensive computer use to having enough guns for a Waco incident so the SWAT team comes in for even computer copyright stuff - madness! Bruce Sterling's "The Hacker Crackdown" (also available free online) still applies in full despite it's age.

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        Maybe economies of scale instead of having every local government have their own police force. It's not going to happen because it drasticly cuts down on the power and corruption opportunities of local government.
        A nice side effect is a Mayor could not send an employee to jail over a trivial workplace dispute like happened in SF. The state police could tell the Mayor to actually do his job, cut out the photo-op trip to the jail to "save the city" and stop wasting police time.
      • So local law enforcement agencies will now have big holes in their budgets. So anyone want to guess how they will fill these holes? Raise local taxes . . . ? Raise the fines for traffic tickets, and hand out more tickets . . . ?

        Any of those are better than asset forfeiture, which targets people arbitrarily and robs them.

    • So if the feds keep doing it, it's been narrowed down to one target for lawsuits? At least it sort of sounds like an improvement.

    • Re:The Fine Print (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Saturday December 26, 2015 @07:56PM (#51187875) Journal

      That will have the effect of reducing its use. It was the fact that state and local law enforcement got a cut of seized property that made it so popular with the police. That incentive is now removed, and the FBI and Federal prosecutors can keep using it against organized crime.

      • It's not that state and local law enforcement aren't getting a cut of seized property now that this program has been shut down; it's that the state asset forfeiture setups gave less of the seized value back to local law enforcement. TFA, IIRC, gave an example of California's process giving 66.5% to local law enforcement, while federal asset forfeiture returned 80% -- the local law enforcement just wanted to get more money out of it.

    • Re:The Fine Print (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Sunday December 27, 2015 @12:01AM (#51188601) Homepage Journal

      They are still taking the money. Just not sharing it with local law enforcement.

      Here's the deal: It's not like the feds were active participants in 99% of the seizures. Basically, some podunk jurisdiction would seize the stuff, usually cash. They'd 'charge' the money, not the individual, with the suspicion of being involved in interstate drug trafficking. Note - 'intended to purchase' was a 'good enough' excuse.

      In exchange for naming the FBI(for example) as a cooperating agency, even though no FBI agents were involved, it became a federal case under federal jurisdiction, until the program this article is about. In exchange for a 10% cut, the 'arresting' agency got to keep 90% of the money, which is often more generous than what state statutes allowed. Some states don't allow forfeitures this easily. Many only let the agency keep half of the money, etc...

      So many state agencies were using this federal program as an end-run around the rules of their own state.

      By no longer sharing the money, that removes the desire to confiscate the money in all but the most gregarious of cases.

  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Saturday December 26, 2015 @06:36PM (#51187635)
    the feds want more of that portion. locals get less.
    • the feds want more of that portion. locals get less.

      That'll put an end to it. The locals are the ones collecting the money, and many states have removed their own civil forfeiture laws leaving LEOs [sic] to go through the feds to get the money. When it quits paying they'll stop as it's not worth the effort.

  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Saturday December 26, 2015 @06:40PM (#51187643)

    i find it quite distressing that this was ever considered legal.

    • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Saturday December 26, 2015 @07:40PM (#51187813)

      Unless I'm mistaken, it's still legal. The difference appears to be that the local cops won't get to keep any of the profits- it just all goes to the feds now. They can still seize whatever they like without any real evidence of any illegal activity or laws being broken.

      My guess is that they'll just find some new way to err, "compensate" local police departments that seize stuff, some sort of "reimbursement" or kick back under a fancy new title.

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      How *was* it ever considered legal and how did it ever pass constitutional muster, especially at the Federal level? Taking property without even a conviction for any crime? Besides the obvious constitutional issue with the 4th amendment, doesn't it also flip the burden of proof onto the person whose assets are seized? Possibly also forcing you to testify in court in violation of your 5th amendment rights -- sure, in a civil proceeding to try to recover your assets, but it's not like any evidence or testi

  • Big deal... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LynnwoodRooster ( 966895 ) on Saturday December 26, 2015 @06:42PM (#51187651) Journal
    It's just a violation of the 4th and 8th Amendments. After all, the Constitution doesn't mean anything, we can have a Federal Government willfully trample all over it whenever it likes...
    • It's just a violation of the 4th and 8th Amendments. After all, the Constitution doesn't mean anything, we can have a Federal Government willfully trample all over it whenever it likes...

      That's the trouble with "living documents". Like any other lifeform, they have to eat. Apparently, what the "living constitution" eats is rights.

      = = = =

      (Or you could argue that it's really a problem with government schools. As far back as the '50s, when I was subjected to them, the section of the civics book on the const

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Saturday December 26, 2015 @07:05PM (#51187719) Homepage

    Asset forfeiture has become a program by which law enforcement can shake down citizens without and evidentiary standard, and steal that money for their own departments.

    I'm sorry, but can you trust law enforcement when they profit from the misapplication of terrible laws?

    For me, no way in hell ... it became a license to steal money like a bunch of crooks. And like a bunch of crooks, they stole everything which wasn't nailed down.

    I bet the sheer amount of money which has essentially been stolen by a bunch of thugs with badges is vast. I mean, why wouldn't they steal money from every schmuck they encountered if they could just make shit up and claim they suspected a crime.

    You want to see how corruptable police are? Give them free reign to take money without a court to decide, and you'll see exactly what we have now ... a fucking shakedown racket the mob would be proud of.

    • I'm surprised at how self-destructive law enforcement in the USA is. Police can only operate with the cooperation of the majority of the public. When they lose this, not only does their job become more difficult it becomes a lot more dangerous. Yet the police keep jumping on ways to make themselves less popular with the generally law-abiding public. It's almost as if someone wants to avoid paying out on any of their pensions...
  • Thanks a lot, Obama.

    • Re:InB4 (Score:5, Informative)

      by NoNonAlphaCharsHere ( 2201864 ) on Saturday December 26, 2015 @07:25PM (#51187765)
      Actually, this whole asset forfeiture thing was an invention of George H.W. Bush's War On Drugs, but don't let facts get in your way.
      • Re:InB4 (Score:5, Interesting)

        by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Saturday December 26, 2015 @07:42PM (#51187825)

        Actually, this whole asset forfeiture thing was an invention of George H.W. Bush's War On Drugs, but don't let facts get in your way.

        For the record, this is correct. The forfeiture and asst seizure programs were developed and launched under Bush.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        Actually, this whole asset forfeiture thing was an invention of George H.W. Bush's War On Drugs, but don't let facts get in your way.

        If you're going to let facts get in your way, civil forfeiture was part of seizing naval vessels and during prohibition, long before Bush. But yes, the whole grabbing property without proving a primary crime was committed using it is largely a modern invention.

        • If you're going to let facts get in your way, civil forfeiture was part of seizing naval vessels and during prohibition, long before Bush. But yes, the whole grabbing property without proving a primary crime was committed using it is largely a modern invention.

          Democracy is not perfect, but it's the best system of governance we've come up with to date, quoth the thatcher, nevermore.

          Nevertheless, the degree to which it protects the least important fellow in the system is perfectly proportionate to the degree of its longevity.

          • Democracy is not perfect, but it's the best system of governance we've come up with to date, quoth the thatcher, nevermore.

            Actually, it goes back to at least Churchill. It's also worth pointing out that there are many forms of democracy. The kind of democracy that exists in Europe and the US was generally considered corrupt and oligarchic by the ancient Greeks, and for good reason (they used a form of sortition).

  • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Saturday December 26, 2015 @07:35PM (#51187805)

    Just call it what is was: Legalized Theft, backed by the power of law.

    • by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Saturday December 26, 2015 @08:21PM (#51187951) Homepage Journal

      Just call it what is was: Legalized Theft, backed by the power of law.

      Is, not was. The headline is wrong. They didn't shut it down, they just decided not to share the proceeds with local and state law enforcement. That probably will reduce the amount of civil forfeiture that happens since those agencies now have less incentive to do it (except as allowed by the -- generally less lucrative -- stat civil asset forfeiture laws), but it's not going away.

  • John Oliver (Score:5, Informative)

    by kbsoftware ( 1000159 ) on Saturday December 26, 2015 @08:49PM (#51188009)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] Does a good job of explaining and showing the police corruption related to this.
    • This was the link I was looking for. John Oliver's take on the subject of civil forfeiture is funny but poignant. "Its not you that stands trial, its your stuff!" If I had some mod points I would give them to kbsoftware.... Cheers.
    • by Rob Riggs ( 6418 )

      This deserves to be modded up. The main issue with the news media these days is the complete lack of "what the fuck?!?" when presenting stories on these sorts of issues. While it might make sense to present some news stories in a detached, dispassionate manner, certain behavior, especially of government, where the fourth estate would like to claim an inherent civil duty, needs to be held up and ridiculed when it is this badly debased. People like John Oliver, and Jon Stewart before him, are able to say "

    • Also...

      http://www.rollingstone.com/tv... [rollingstone.com]...
      http://www.forbes.com/sites/in... [forbes.com]...
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/... [huffingtonpost.com]...
      http://www.slate.com/blogs/bro... [slate.com]...

      In any case, glad this abusive, corrupting program was shut down.

      A time article on John Oliver's influence including noting his show on civil forfeiture. Here's an article where you could read that he had an effect on CF...

      http://time.com/3674807/john-o... [time.com]...

      Quote:
      After the increased exposure given to the issue by the (Washington) Post and Oliver, Attorney Ge

  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Saturday December 26, 2015 @10:08PM (#51188275)
    The obvious is going to happen once you start forcing the people who make the seizures to earn their living from it no matter how honest 99% of them are.
    • I Believe the Mexican police or Federalis have this practice. We might start with the "get the bad guy assets" of course to fight crime and hit the bad guy where it hurts. Eventually, it becomes good funding to enhance law enforcement. Since we still have SOME infrastructure, then people get the idea we can cut taxes without looking at what that means and suddenly the forfeiture becomes a replacement for taxes -- just like a Lottery. And guess who pays more in both "let's not tax" system? You get a cookie i

  • You Americans really need to change your laws so John Oliver can be President. He talked about this last year. [youtube.com]

  • People who facilitated this need to be fired and or hauled off to jail.

  • by Wakko Warner ( 324 ) on Sunday December 27, 2015 @03:34AM (#51189053) Homepage Journal

    So this is basically just theft. The police are just like the Crips and Bloods, except they're taxpayer funded.

  • Did I see this same story about 6 months ago? I remember it because there are so few things the Obama administration does that are good so it really stuck out. It is good to have a reminder though. It's nice to be reminded that this administration can do a good thing.
  • I recalled a story about some John in the Detroit area getting busted in an anti-prostitution sting, driving his wife's car, and the police seizing the vehicle. This is purely unjust enrichment of those police departments.

    Here's some more...
    http://articles.latimes.com/20... [latimes.com]

    • by ruir ( 2709173 )
      Uber meets prostituition needs ....I see here a business opportunity. I would call the new service "luber".
  • by whistlingtony ( 691548 ) on Sunday December 27, 2015 @01:22PM (#51190567)

    So, I'm reading this story, and reading the comments. Everyone's piling on the "Gubmint bad! They steal from us!" bandwagon... Uhm. Guys? This story is the Gubmint STOPPING a horrible practice. Why aren't there more cheers?

    The DOJ was right to stop this. They did. Hooray!

"If truth is beauty, how come no one has their hair done in the library?" -- Lily Tomlin

Working...