Huge change in federal policy related to asset seizure

Employment law is my main focus, but I have quite a bit of experience related to federal forfeiture law, specifically, C.A.F.R.A.  I like to keep up on the topic. Asset forfeiture is an interesting niche that has been the subject of abuse and is not well understand by many practitioners.

Today marks a fairly large shift in policy, and a tacit recognition that the federal forfeiture process was previously being misused.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Federal Agencies will no longer adopt assets seized by local law enforcement. This closes the door on what was a fairly common practice of local law enforcement agencies seizing assets then turning them over to their federal counterparts for forfeiture under laws that were much friendlier than the state laws that law enforcement would otherwise have been forced to comply with.

Click to read the press release from AG Holder.

I saved a copy of the formal order issued by the AG, you can download a copy here.

The policy does not prevent all adoptive forfeitures, and still allows for forfeitures of “public safety concerns, including firearms, ammunition, explosives and property associated with child pornography.”

Nonetheless, this ends the practice of local law enforcement seizing currency and vehicles under questionable circumstances, transferring the property to the feds, and then reaping the rewards of forfeiture under generous asset sharing arrangements.

Now, state and local officials will be accountable to their own state laws related to asset seizure and forfeiture. Many of which, are much more rigorous and demanding than their federal counterparts.

This could lead to a increase in the amount of forfeiture cases litigated on the state level, or it could lead to a decrease in the amount of seizures done by law enforcement, if they decide it just isn’t worth the effort anymore. Only time will tell…

Civil Forfeiture, explained in an entertaining way

I previously talked about the potential for abuse of the civil forfeiture process.  I tried to create a plausible, yet scary, scenario to show just how easy it is for your property to be taken, and how hard it can be to get it back.  This new video from John Oliver’s show, Last Week Tonight, had a great segment about civil forfeiture:

Essentially, the thrust of the segment, which is not without basis, is that civil forfeiture has become a tool of policing for profit.

While the laws are not favorable to those who have had their property seized, you are not without recourse. Even if you do not have the money to hire an attorney, in some instances an attorney will take your case on a contingent fee basis, where they will only collect a fee from you if they help you get your property back.