DOJ Invites The ATF To The War On Drugs, Grants It Power To Process Its Own 'Drug-Related' Forfeitures

from the pervs-and-their-incentives dept

If you love our nation’s stupid Drug War and our government’s legalized theft system d/b/a asset forfeiture… well, it’s highly unlikely that you read this blog with any regularity. If you don’t like either of those, then here’s more bad news for you.

The ATF — another rogue DOJ agency and one which was previously only adjacent to the Drug War — has been formally invited by the DOJ to jump in and start seizing more stuff. The initial dip of the ATF’s toe into drug-related administrative forfeiture has been such a moneymaker that the DOJ is permanently removing the only barrier between the ATF and warehouses full of other people’s property.

In February 2013, the Department of Justice started a pilot program allowing the ATF to process property related to drug offenses through administrative forfeiture, when weapons were also being seized. By Sept. 30, 2014, the ATF had seized and processed assets with a total value in excess of $19,300,000, according to the new rule.

The program will continue, according to the Justice Department.

The only thing holding the ATF back from being a full-blown soldier in the War on Drugs was paperwork and logistics. Formerly, if it seized something purportedly “drug-related,” it had to turn it over to the DEA or a US Attorney for processing — the latter option usually resulting in a trip through the court system. No longer. Now, it can handle forfeitures from start-to-finish.

This speeds things up for the US government, which still strongly feels (despite Eric Holder’s recent rule tweak) that taking stuff from people under the assumption that the stuff itself is guilty of criminal activity is a great way to destroy drug empires, punish fraudsters and generally wreak law enforcement havoc on criminal enterprises. For the people on the other end of these “forfeitures” — the only party saddled with the burden of proof — it often looks like nothing more than government-ordained robbery.

According to the DOJ, “fast and effective” is better than “right.”

Administrative forfeiture is expedient and effective, the Justice Department believes.

The DOJ notes, rather disingenuously, that all the legal hassle of disputed forfeitures is “costing” it thousands of dollars every year. Hence, it would prefer that its agencies be allowed to process their own administrative forfeitures, increasing the likelihood that due process will be bypassed some tax dollars can be “saved” while relieving taxpayers of their “guilty” property.

An uncontested administrative forfeiture can be done in 60-90 days for minimal cost, whereas judicial forfeiture generally can take 6 months to a year and cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. In the meantime, the government incurs additional costs if the property requires storage or maintenance until a final order of forfeiture can be obtained, the rule states.

Now, some entities (like the DOJ and its various three-letter underlings) believe that an “uncontested” forfeiture is a tacit admission of guilt. It’s a stupid assumption but it probably lets them sleep better at night. In reality, an “uncontested” seizure is usually the result of a person realizing that an uphill court battle, multiple powerful government agencies and a massive amount of legal fees stand between them and their seized property. In most cases, it isn’t worth the fight.

This policy change perverts the ATF’s incentives, pretty much ensuring that the process will be abused (further) in the future. Anything that speeds up a corrupt and broken process will work out badly for those on the receiving end of the ATF’s new powers. The further muddying of the lines separating agencies’ jurisdictions will only make things worse, turning the ATF into a part-time Drug War ally who will now be looking for anything that might be “drug-related,” rather than limiting itself to its designated duties.

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Comments on “DOJ Invites The ATF To The War On Drugs, Grants It Power To Process Its Own 'Drug-Related' Forfeitures”

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art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

i get to the point of ‘constitution-shredding overload’: WHERE to start on how ‘our’ (sic) sick gummint has abandoned ALL legal principles, mostly in the service of greed and draconian PRE-punishments…

executive signing statements (much less SECRET ONES?), um, where is that even HINTED at in the constitution ? ? ?
(i have never heard an explanation)

unreasonable search and seizure ? ? ? NO SUCH THING anymore…

right to face your accuser ? ? ? fuggidaboutit, secret metadata in a black data center is your judge, jury and executioner…

right to a fair trial ? ? ? effectively obviated by persecutor/prosecutor abuse which tacks on a million felonies to smother you… ‘cop a plea for something you didn’t do, or we’ll railroad you to a million years in prison…’

this ain’t America, this ain’t constitutional, this ain’t legal, but it doesn’t fucking matter does it… its golden rule time: them that’s got the gold, makes the rules…

suffer peons, and suffer in silence, we don’t want to hear you bleating, or you’ll get a beating…

Anonymous Coward says:

In fairness to ATF

They were already so corrupt and incompetent that it’s hard to believe that they limited themselves to their designated duties before this. Witness the number of government-issued firearms that ATF agents have managed to permanently lose through rookie mistakes, frequently with reporting delayed and punishment skipped.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Makes perfect sense...

The IRS is a bunch of stupid fucking lazy bitches. It takes them months to not even figure out a simple error that they made. Also, you can’t even talk to them to walk them through the issue… all you get are the collections people that have no clue! They send you a letter every 45 days saying they need another 45 days to figure it out. Fucking worthless scum, they are. Perfect organization for head cuts… when the time comes.

Just doing their job… right?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Makes perfect sense...

“They can’t just make up an unrelated crime and say that the money was involved in it as an excuse to seize it.”

True. They have to make up a tax-related crime. And actually, they don’t even have to do that. They just have to say they’re pretty sure that you’re about to flee to escape some tax-related crime.

And remember, the IRS has their own court system. They don’t have to prove anything in a real court, they get to go to courts that they run.

Anonymous Coward says:

How quickly people forget...

The ATF is the very agency that because of their “respect my authori” arrogance irresponsibly mishandled the situation in Waco resulting in tragedy which in turn inspired another tragedy: the Oklahoma City bombing. In light of this history, is this really an agency we want to give the authority for this sort of thing? Really? Wow!

Anonymous Coward says:

Lets not forget Operation Fast and Furious, the ATF’s badly-conceived and disastrously-botched undercover operation to deliver military-grade weaponry into the hands of the Mexican drug cartel, just to see where it might end up next. Needless to say, the government of Mexico (where guns are illegal, BTW) was outraged upon learning that the ATF was responsible for feeding the wave of violent crime engulfing the country.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Mar 5th, 2015 @ 2:58pm

You forget that the guns ended up back in the united states involved in murder cases. And the whole operation was a failure due to fact that the guns didnt lead to anything they were just stored in weaponscaches. Should have at least gave them to the.mexican mormons who are currently at war with the drug cartels and cant religously or culturely consume drugs……

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The "war on guns"?

The “Obama’s gonna take our guns” line is a propaganda pipe-dream of Republican right wing. He’s actually attempted to do very little along those lines. Far, far less than the fear mongers would have you believe. The ATF’s misdeeds also aren’t really a product of partisan politics and started WAY before Obama was even alive much less in politics. Their history of crap like this is long and distinguished.

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