Ban on seizure
One of the traditions of police raids is about to top. By invoking a federal law local and state police can keep 80% of assets seized during an operation (e.g. drug raid). This was a very popular during the 80s and is better known as civil forfeiture.
So why is this a bad thing you ask? Well unlike other types of crime the defendant doesn’t have to be proven guilty for civil forfeiture to occur. This means that if there is evidence of criminal activity the police can invoke this law and seize the person’s assets as well as cash money. When the evidence is not conclusive enough for the person to be charged and convicted the prosecutor will press charges against the goods.
The issue has many sides that don’t seem actually right. First of all would be that in the case all charges against you are dismissed you’ll have to recover your assets, which can be a lengthy process. Keep in mind that they also seize house. Second issue is that in many cases almost 20% of a department’s yearly budget comes from this kind of operations. This would be the wrong kind of incentive that might make law enforcers to reach a ‘quota’.
Last week Eric Holder – U.S General Attorney – has put a ban on this practice by invoking civil liberties safeguard. Police can still seize assets under state law (no longer under federal law), however this will require the state to route all money in a general fund. As Holder stated this is the beginning of a review of the program.