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U.S. Justice Dept. says police can no longer steal assets from the public


Civil forfeiture

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(NaturalNews) In a rare display of "actually-doing-the-right-thing-for-a-change," the United States Department of Justice has announced that it will no longer permit state and local authorities to invoke a federal law making it legal for state and local officials to seize private property without evidence of a crime having been committed.

On Friday, January 16, Attorney General Eric Holder put an end to the practice, saying:

With this new policy, effective immediately, the Justice Department is taking an important step to prohibit federal agency adoptions of state and local seizures, except for public safety reasons.

The highly controversial civil asset forfeiture program known as "Equitable Sharing" was created at the height of the War on Drugs in the 1980s and allows law enforcement to seize not only private property such as homes, cars, boats and weapons but also cash.

The move by Holder as he steps down from his position as Attorney General seems to be motivated partly by a desire to leave a legacy, and partly as a response to a Washington Post investigation which revealed the extent to which thousands of state and local police departments have abused the program to the tune of billions of dollars.

The program essentially amounts to legalized highway robbery on the part of law enforcement. The amount of money and assets seized in recent years is breathtaking.

The Washington Post reported that seizures of cash "from motorists and others" made by police since the 9/11 attacks added up to nearly $2.5 billion dollars. Since 2008, state and local law enforcement agencies "have made more than 55,000 seizures of cash and property worth $3 billion."

From The Washington Post:

The Post found that local and state police routinely pulled over drivers for minor traffic infractions, pressed them to agree to warrantless searches and seized large amounts of cash without evidence of wrongdoing. The law allows such seizures and forces the owners to prove their property was legally acquired in order to get it back.

These seizures were made without search warrants or criminal indictments. In many cases, the seized cash has been difficult or impossible for citizens to recover -- even when there was no crime committed.

The legal process of recovering wrongly-seized assets from the authorities can be very expensive, often taking more than a year to accomplish. The seizure of assets and the difficult process of recovering them has destroyed lives, such as in the case of Mandrel Stuart, "who was stopped in 2012 by Fairfax County police, detained without charges, handcuffed and stripped of $17,550 in cash that was to be used for equipment and supplies for his barbecue restaurant in Staunton, Va.," the Post reported. "He eventually hired a lawyer, and a jury gave him his money back in 2013. But he lost his restaurant while fighting the government, because he had no working capital."

Many police departments and other law enforcement agencies are criticizing Holder's actions, saying that they are part of an "anti-cop" policy on the part of the White House and the Justice Department.

Many others have praised the move but fear that it does not go far enough. States still have their own forfeiture programs and will still be able to seize cash and property -- they just won't be able to do it under unconstitutional federal protection.

Holder has taken an important step in the right direction, and his revocation of the program should produce some positive results, but far more scrutiny and reform of state and local police departments and their policies is necessary.

As law enforcement agencies continue to increasingly militarize their operations while expanding their powers to near-fascist levels, American citizens, along with their freedom and rights, will continue to suffer as a result.

Sources:

http://www.washingtonpost.com

http://www.thedailysheeple.com

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