A bipartisan group of civil liberty supporters in the Senate is working to defund Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ civil asset forfeiture schemes.
Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Angus King (I-Vt.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) are working to include an amendment to the appropriations bill which would block funding for federal asset forfeiture programs.
In a letter to Sen. Richard Shelby, a ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the liberty concerned lawmakers wrote:
Adoptive forfeiture and equitable sharing are particularly egregious elements of civil asset forfeiture because they not only violate due process but also attack principles of federalism. DOJ’s reinstated policy allows state law enforcement officers to circumvent state limitations on civil forfeiture by turning seized property over to federal officials for forfeiture in exchange for up to 80 percent of the proceeds of the property. This perversely incentivizes local law enforcement to confiscate suspect property even where state laws forbid the practice.
Over the past few years, several state legislatures have taken steps to limit or eliminate local law enforcement civil asset forfeiture programs. But Sessions, in a directive earlier this year, provided a loophole for the departments by getting federal agencies involved.
Sessions’ dual assault on state rights and civil liberty allows local police to run civil property seizures through federal court. Property stolen from owners by the federal government is then divided among participating agencies via “equitable sharing.”