The House just reversed a law enforcement policy that Attorney General Jeff Sessions put in place in July. Lawmakers voted on Tuesday to curb the law enforcement practice of seizing cash and property from those suspected of illegal activity but have not yet been charged.
The vote by a bipartisan group of lawmakers was an amendment to a government-spending package for 2018 that will keep the Trump administration from using funds from the use of asset forfeiture. This law enforcement practice allows officials to seize cash and property and keep at least part of the proceeds.
Those who got together to make the Tuesday vote are not usually on the same side; they included both members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus as well as liberal progressives. Sponsors of the amendment included Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.).
“This practice is outrageous. It supplants the authority of states to regulate their own law enforcement and it further mires the federal government in unconstitutional asset forfeitures,” Amash said during House floor debate.
In July, Sessions directed the Department of Justice saying, “asset forfeiture is one of law enforcement’s most effective tools to reduce crime, and its use should be encouraged where appropriate.”
“To ensure that this tool is used appropriately, the Department is implementing safeguards to make certain that there is sufficient evidence of criminal activity before a federal adoption occurs, that the evidence is well documented, that our state and local law enforcement partners have appropriate training to use this tool, and that there is appropriate supervisory review of decisions to approve forfeiture.” Sessions added.
Those who supported the attorney general’s decision say it eliminates criminals’ proceeds from illegal activity and enables law enforcement to use the funds for their operations for compensation to the victims of associated crimes. A Justice Department inspector general report indicated that more than $4 billion in forfeited funds had been given to crime victims since 2000. It also reported that more than $6 billion of the forfeited money was used by state and local law enforcement over the same period.
So which side are you on? The lawmakers who voted on the amendment or the attorney general?
Credit: The Hill