Attorney General Jeff Sessions Continues to Accelerate Unconstitutional Civil Asset Forfeiture


No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation. – Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution

You shall not steal. – The Eighth Commandment

Both the Bible and the US Constitution are clear: no one, including government has the right to steal from anyone.  Often, assets are seized by government from local to federal government, and often these assets are never returned to those found innocent of the crimes they are charged with.  Instead, government will often sell off those assets and pocket the money, effectively violating the law, the rights of the people and becoming criminals themselves.  Sadly, when it comes to civil asset forfeiture, the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions is not much different from the DOJ under Loretta Lynch, another profiteer, and promoter of civil asset forfeiture.

No one should be surprised that the DOJ is engaging in what is unlawful.  Even Donald Trump supports this criminal activity!  And it doesn’t matter that the Supreme Court upholds this activity.  The Fifth Amendment and the Law of God are clear on the matter.

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Quin Hillyer reports:

Sessions’ new order expands the federal government’s use of “civil asset forfeiture,” which is the practice of seizing property held by those suspected of criminal activity. A staple of many law-enforcement jurisdictions for years, asset forfeiture is meant to help dry up sources of revenue and other support for those who transgress the law. And if the seized assets are not found to belong to particular victims of crime, enforcement agencies often keep the proceeds as part of the way to fund their own operations.

The new order will allow the feds to seize property collected not just by federal agents, but all assets seized by state and local officials if the alleged crime causing the seizure also violates federal law.

“Asset forfeiture is one of law enforcement’s most effective tools to reduce crime,” Sessions wrote, “and its use should be encouraged where appropriate.”

A host of law-enforcement agencies heartily endorsed Sessions’ directive – and conservatives, usually seen as avatars of “law and order,” usually would be expected to line up with law enforcement.

But for a couple of years now, conservatives also concerned with property rights – along with conservatives with libertarian beliefs against intrusive, over-powerful government – have led a movement to restrict, rather than expand, asset forfeiture. The Internet is full of compelling and well-documented stories of abuses of asset forfeiture in which even the property of uninvolved innocents, if momentarily in possession for whatever reason by those arrested for alleged crimes, is seized and then made almost impossible to recover.

“In order to give individual property owners an opportunity to challenge the seizure as soon as practicable, the Department will expedite federal agencies’ decisions regarding adoptions and their provision of notice to interested parties,” wrote Sessions.  “State and local law enforcement agencies must request federal adoption within 15 calendar days following the date of seizure. The adopting federal agency must send notice to interested parties within 45 days of the date of seizure. These time limitations may be extended for good cause by the supervisory forfeiture counsel (or higher level official) of the adopting agency, provided that such extensions are documented in writing and include a description of the circumstances justifying the extension. Any such extensions remain subject to statutory time limits pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 983(a)(l)(A)(iv). ”

No, Mr. Sessions, you are admitting you are violating the Fifth Amendment.  There must be due process of law BEFORE you take people’s stuff, and I question the ethics of taking it in the first place unless it is stolen property and then it needs to be returned to the rightful owner, not the government.

The things written in this memo are so obviously against the clear wording of the Constitution that Mr. Sessions swore to uphold, it amazes me how people will get behind him and support this effort.  Oh wait, no it doesn’t.  He’s got an “R” on his jersey.

“To better protect claimants, the Department will expedite the review of civil asset forfeiture cases,” wrote Sessions, highlighting an attempt to input “safeguards” to curb abuses, even though the entire system is a violation of the law.  “State and local law enforcement agencies requesting federal adoption must do so within 15 calendar days following the date of seizure. The adopting federal agency must then send notice to interested parties within 45 days of the date of seizure. This is twice as fast of a review as is required by statute. This streamlined process will ensure that people receive speedy resolutions of their cases, and that rightful owners will get their property back as soon as possible.”

“In addition to these safeguards on federal adoptions, I am asking Department attorneys to proceed with an abundance of caution when handling all forfeitures involving vehicles and especially residences,” Sessions added.  “I think that Department attorneys should think hard before they agree to forfeit these types of property, or waive any asset thresholds associated with them. Just like with cash seizures, if we operate this program in a careful and responsible way, something I believe the American people expect and deserve with a program such as this, the Department’s federal asset forfeiture program will be an effective tool, while at the same time protecting the rights of property owners.”

At least some conservatives spoke out against the DOJ’s criminal activity.

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) blasted Sessions warning, “increasing indications from the Supreme Court that this practice is constitutionally suspect.”

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) said, “I oppose the government overstepping its boundaries by assuming a suspect’s guilt and seizing their property before they even have their day in court.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has long been an advocate of more protections for property rights rather than expansion of forfeiture.

The Institute for Justice wrote in Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture, “Civil forfeiture laws represent one of the most serious assaults on private property rights in the nation today. Under civil forfeiture, police and prosecutors can seize your car or other property, sell it and use the proceeds to fund agency budgets—all without so much as charging you with a crime. Unlike criminal forfeiture, where property is taken after its owner has been found guilty in a court of law, with civil forfeiture, owners need not be charged with or convicted of a crime to lose homes, cars, cash or other property. Americans are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, but civil forfeiture turns that principle on its head.  With civil forfeiture, your property is guilty until you prove it innocent.”

Attorney John Whitehead with the Rutherford Institute explains how civil asset forfeiture works concerning cash.

“First, government agents (usually the police) use a broad array of tactics to profile, identify, target and arrange to encounter (in a traffic stop, on a train, in an airport, in public, or on private property) those  individuals who might be traveling with a significant amount of cash or possess property of value,” Whitehead writes.  “Second, these government agents—empowered by the courts and the legislatures—seize private property (cash, jewelry, cars, homes and other valuables) they “suspect” may be connected to criminal activity.”

“Then—and here’s the kicker—whether or not any crime is actually proven to have taken place, without any charges being levied against the property owner, or any real due process afforded the unlucky victim, the property is forfeited to the government, which often divvies it up with the local police who helped with the initial seizure,” he adds.

“It’s a new, twisted form of guilt by association,” continues Whitehead.  “Only it’s not the citizenry being accused of wrongdoing, just their money.  What this adds up to is a paradigm in which Americans no longer have to be guilty to be stripped of their property, rights and liberties. All you have to be is in possession of something the government wants.”

It was former Attorney General Loretta Lynch who claimed that asset forfeiture was an “effective tool” against crime.  However, it is clearly unconstitutional and immoral, which makes it unlawful.  in 2013, her office illegally seized over $904 million in asset forfeitures.  Additionally, we know the FBI hides payments to informants, and then gives them a cut of asset forfeiture proceeds.  Again, all of this is unconstitutional and illegal.

In 2014, the Justice Department violated the Constitution by seizing $4.5 billion in assets from American citizens who had not even gone to trial!

Justice Clarence Thomas warned “This system — where police can seize property with limited judicial oversight and retain it for their own use — has led to egregious and well-chronicled abuses.  I am skeptical that this historical practice is capable of sustaining, as a constitutional matter, the contours of modern practice.”

Indeed, and now many will support it under a Republican administration when they were screaming at the top of their lungs over the Obama DOJ doing the very same thing.

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