Federal Program Lets Cops Seize Cash, Evade State Laws And Keep Over A Billion Dollars
John Yoder and Brad Cates, who headed the Asset Forfeiture Office at the U.S. Department of Justice from 1983 to 1989, slammed civil forfeiture as a “complete corruption” and “fundamentally at odds with our judicial system and notions of fairness,” in an op-ed for The Washington Post. Thanks to civil forfeiture laws, police and prosecutors don’t need to charge someone with a crime to seize and keep their property. Yoder and Cates “were heavily involved in the creation of the asset forfeiture initiative at the Justice Department,” they write, but after seeing civil forfeiture become a “gross perversion of the status of government amid a free citizenry,” the two now believe it should be “abolished.”
Their criticisms come on the heels of an extensive, three-part investigation by The Washington Post into highway interdiction. Since 9/11, without warrants and despite a lack of criminal charges, law enforcement nationwide has taken in $2.5 billion from 61,998 cash seizures under equitable sharing. This federal civil forfeiture program lets local and state law enforcement literally make a federal case out of a seizure, if they collaborate with a federal agency. Not only can they then bypass state forfeiture laws, they can pocket up to 80 percent of the proceeds. So of that $2.5 billion seized through equitable sharing, local and state authorities kept $1.7 billion for their own uses.