Don't Abolish Asset Forfeiture

Don't Abolish Asset Forfeiture

By Alfred Regnery, LE Action Chairman

 

Asset forfeiture has been around since colonial times, when it was used to seize contraband and the ships transporting it and the profits of pirates on the high seas. In more recent times, it has served law enforcement well in combating violent and organized criminal enterprises and drug traffickers whose leaders launder and conceal money through an array of illicit schemes.

Organized crime and drug trafficking are big business and involve billions of dollars. Knowledge that money will be seized and not returned is an effective deterrent to committing more crime. Asset forfeiture, as allowed in Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ new guidelines, gives law enforcement another tool in its battle to restrain such crime.

Sessions has restored forfeiture to what Congress passed years ago by voiding another of the many attempts by Obama administration Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch to restrain the police by changing the law rather than enforcing it. Sessions should be commended for doing so.

There have been, to be sure, abuses of the practice. But the new guidelines put procedures in place to protect against those. If property is seized, for example, the owner is notified and can immediately go into court to challenge the seizure. Surprise: Four out of five would rather forfeit profits than appear in court.

Similarly, if state law enforcement officials request the federal government to take their case, they must now demonstrate to the U.S. attorney that probable cause existed when the asset was seized—the same standard used in making an arrest. How does that violate due process?

Asset forfeiture, as allowed in the new guidelines, can slow the flow of illegal drugs, violence and resulting drug addiction plaguing our cities. Abolishing the practice would give a green light to these criminals to proceed.

 

 

USA Today


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