Multiple Legislators Looking To Neutralize AG Sessions' Rollback Of Federal Forfeiture Reforms

from the spike-strips-in-Sessions'-driveway dept

Jolly new Attorney General Jeff Sessions can't wait to put the screws to all those Americans who didn't have the sense to seek employment as law enforcement officers. Sessions wants harsher drug sentencing, less oversight, and the revival of programs abandoned in the 80s and 90s after they proved to have zero effect on rising crime rates.

Sessions, with the support of the Trump Administration, is rolling back the last administration's minor reforms to the 1033 program, which allowed local law enforcement agencies to obtain MRAPs, assault rifles, grenade launchers… whatever it took to defend the annual Mule Day Parade from terrorist attacks. Fun fact: these same items are apparently crucial components of flood rescue efforts in Houston, TX. [Cue shooting star and the words "The More You Know," soon to be riddled with bullet holes for startling MRAP-riding 1033 recipients with their sudden appearance…]

Asset forfeiture is coming back, too. Sessions has opened the federal loophole closed by his predecessor, allowing local agencies to give the finger to legislators and the people they serve as they bypass local reform efforts and cash in on other people's property. Sessions appeared to be this close to visible arousal when discussing the return of the Federal Forfeiture Loophole during a law enforcement conference in Alabama.

"I love that program," Sessions said. "We had so much fun doing that, taking drug dealers' money and passing it out to people trying to put drug dealers in jail. What's wrong with that?"

It's a rhetorical question, but only because Sessions is completely uninterested in the answer. What's wrong with civil asset forfeiture could fill several publications (and has!) but there's no talking to a man who's paid to revel in his deliberate ignorance. Putting people in jail is a concept wholly divorced from civil asset forfeiture, which is why it's been abused so often and so thoroughly. Once law enforcement was freed from the burden of actual proof, anything found anywhere near anyone possessing any amount of drugs was fair game for opportunistic officers. (Note: drug possession is completely optional! A dog can tell cops to take stuff, even if there are no drugs present. And you can't cross-examine a dog to see if it actually smelled drugs or just wanted to make its uniformed human happy.)

Sideloading forfeitures through the federal adoption program allows cops to bypass forfeiture efforts in several states. That would include those which have established a conviction requirement, basically eliminating civil asset forfeiture altogether. Unfortunately for Sessions, there are still a few troublemakers on Capitol Hill hoping to undercut the improper advances made by the new AG towards Americans' personal property. Civil rights watchdog FreedomWorks has compiled a list of amendments to the DOJ appropriations bill that would suck the fun right out of taking money from people just because.

Amendment 46 to Division C: Submitted by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), this amendment would prohibit the use of funds from being used to carry out Attorney General Sessions' directive. The problem with this amendment is there were some minor positive aspects to the otherwise terrible directive, such setting a minimum value of $10,000 before seized property or cash can be adopted, requiring more proof of criminal activity, and doubling the time required for the property owner to receive notice of their rights. Because the amendment would prohibit funding for the directive, it would prevent the positive reforms from being implemented.

[...]

Amendment 70 to Division C: Submitted by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), this amendment would prohibit funds from being used to facilitate adoptive seizures of property or cash. The amendment references the directive from the previous administration, but it's tailored to address the specific activity, adoptive seizures, for prohibition. Presumably, it would leave the minor positive reforms in Attorney General Sessions' directive in place.

Amendment 87 to Division C: Submitted by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the amendment would reduce the appropriation for the Justice Department's Assets Forfeiture Fund by $10 million and increases funding by the same amount to the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program, which deals with forensic kits in cases of sexual assault. The merits of the DNA program notwithstanding, the amendment doesn't directly address Attorney General Sessions' directive.

Amendment 127 to Division C: Submitted by Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), the amendment would prohibit the use of funds appropriated from being used for adoptive seizures. It's similar to Rep. Amash's amendment, but it isn't directly tied to a specific directive or order.

Unfortunately, the attachment of amendments to a "must-pass" bill doesn't guarantee any of the riders will make it past preliminary discussions. If they were allowed to make it out for a vote, FreedomWorks posits they have a good chance of passing. Given the support they might gather if allowed into the wild, these amendments likely have a slim chance of becoming anything more than excess weight to be shed in favor of more powerful lawmakers' pet boondoggles and President-pleasing riders.

But there's still a small chance Sessions' love affair with legalized theft will be broken up by interloping Congressmen. And that would be a joy to behold: AG Sessions having to turn away law enforcement agencies desperate to have the shaky seizures legitimized by federal adoption procedures… and Sessions having the power -- but not the funds -- to do it.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2017 @ 11:07am

    "What's wrong with civil asset forfeiture could fill several publications (and has!) but there's no talking to a man who's paid to revel in his deliberate ignorance."

    It's the exact same "pro gun legislation" mentality that seems to care about the 4th which shitting on the 2nd.

    Good for the goose, good for the gander! I keep telling everyone that once you allow the destruction of just 1 right, you just paved the way to destroy them ALL!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 6 Sep 2017 @ 11:21am

    Two Steps

    The first requirement should be that the owner of the asset be proven guilty of a crime, one that might have aided in obtaining that asset. Jaywalking for instance would not count.

    The second would be that the assets are provably beyond a reasonable doubt the proceeds of criminal activity.

    Where are those amendments?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    anonymous, 6 Sep 2017 @ 11:40am

    Declare the Property Incompetent for Trial

    Should Officer Friendly and his dog determine your property is doing something illegal, and a court case ensues, The State vs. the Property, then it should be fair game to get your property declared incompetent for trial, and make your self the legal guardian and caretaker of said property.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2017 @ 11:56am

      Re: Declare the Property Incompetent for Trial

      "then it should be fair game to get your property declared incompetent for trial, and make your self the legal guardian and caretaker of said property."

      It is, the question is... are you brave enough? And if so, will your fellow citizens support you?

      If the state is corrupt, which of the following solutions is more viable?

      Petitioning said corrupt state for redress?

      Or...

      Protecting your property from the enemy with violence, be they foreign or domestic?


      If it is "illegal" to protect your property against an authority performing "illegal" actions to acquire your property... then you do not own property, they own it, you just simply lost the "permissions" to to use that property.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2017 @ 1:07pm

    They want to "legalize" pillaging .. what's next - rape?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2017 @ 1:08pm

    Yeah, blame Sessions, blame Trump. Of course, Congress writes the actual laws and could change this, but yeah, blame Sessions, blame Trump. You chase shadows and never solve the real problem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 6 Sep 2017 @ 4:32pm

      Why yes as a matter of fact, I Will blame them for their words and actions

      I wasn't aware congress made a side job impersonating both Sessions and Trump, making statements under their names and using their respective offices to roll back previous rules, re-institute failed programs and so on.

      Oh, they don't? So what Session and Trump say or do can in fact be laid at their feet, because whether or not congress 'could change this' doesn't change the fact that Sessions and/or Trump are in fact responsible for their own words and actions?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2017 @ 5:01pm

      Re:

      Blaming the Attorney General for misapplication of the law?
      The Horror! What will we do?

      Solve the problem? LOL, like that is possible. But I think you are correct in that it takes congress to impeach the president.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      musterion (profile), 7 Sep 2017 @ 6:49am

      Re: Who to blame?

      blame the so-called "War on Drugs" IT has been the excuse for most of the erosion of our (in the US) civil liberties.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Justme, 6 Sep 2017 @ 9:16pm

    Corrupt?

    You hear stories of some police getting a lot of their budget through seizures. Usually they target people passing through with out of state plates, i guess so they don't anger the locals.

    I think that presents an opportunity to test their claim that they are just trying to stop drug trafficking and not line their pockets.

    So i ask a simple question, In all the cases where they have found no drugs but seized money from out of state persons, supposedly due to suspicion of drug trafficking... What percentage did they also seize their vehicle??

    I don't know the answer, but if there is a discrepancy it really lends itself to questioning their motives.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 6 Sep 2017 @ 10:45pm

      Re: Corrupt?

      Not sure about the answer to your question(I'd actually imagine it's rather low, as if you take away someone's vehichle they have a very real reason to fight back, as they need it to get to where they were going), but as for the idea of 'Are they doing this to stop drug trafficking, or to line their own pockets?' question, well...

      The OIG reviewed a sampling of cases and concluded that about two-thirds of DEA seizures that resulted from drug interdiction operations did not advance ongoing investigations, result in new investigations, lead to arrests or lead to prosecutions.

      Notably, the OIG report also found that when the financial incentive for law enforcement was reduced — when the federal government eliminated some opportunities for state and local law enforcement to claim “equitable sharing” money in late 2015 — the DEA cash seizures fell by more than half.

      “The tip of the spear has just been blunted — it’s got no point now,” Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon said at the time.

      Hampton County suspended drug interdiction patrols until the payment program resumed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Justme, 8 Sep 2017 @ 7:38pm

        Re: Re: Corrupt?

        'if you take away someone's vehicle they have a very real reason to fight back'

        That is what i was thinking, the last thing they want is to have their victim's stranded with lots of time to shine a spotlight on their actions!

        Fact: The war on drugs has increased police corruption and created more crime, killed more people, and destroyed more lives then the problem it is suppose to address, and after decades it has failed to even lessen the extent/impact of drug use or addiction.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    tin-foil-hat, 6 Sep 2017 @ 9:37pm

    Tough on Crime

    It must be nice to be exempt from the same laws everyone else has to obey.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 11 Sep 2017 @ 6:40am

    Make it so money acquired from asset forfeiture never ends in law enforcement hands. This would remove a good portion of the incentive.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.