Attorney General Jeff Session announced on Monday that the Department of Justice planned to announce a new directive later this week designed to increase police seizure of assets. Sessions said the new directive would be aimed primarily at drug traffickers, but that no criminal should be allowed to benefit from their criminal activity.
There is little dispute among law enforcement agencies, legislators, and even advocates for criminal justice reform that criminals should not be allowed to keep the proceeds from their wrongdoing. However, in many cases, assets are seized without ever bringing criminal charges against the individual or without ever getting a conviction. Forfeiture laws in most states and at the federal level allow assets to be seized when there is merely a suspicion of wrongdoing by the individual in question. In many states, law enforcement agencies are permitted to keep the money that they seized.
Critics say the forfeiture laws in place are rife with potential for abuse and point out that law enforcement agencies have a profit motive for seizing assets. In 2015, under Eric Holder, the Justice Department issued a memo limiting a practice known as adoptive forfeitures that allowed local police to share part of their forfeiture profits with federal authorities. The practice of adoptive forfeiture allowed states to sidestep more restrictive state law to process forfeiture cases under the more lenient federal laws. Criminal justice reform advocates believed this signaled a shift towards more restrictive forfeiture practices at the federal level. However, in his speech Monday, Sessions suggested adoptive forfeitures were an area for potential expansions.
The new policies may actually be a departure from the current trend at the state level towards more restrictive forfeiture laws. Thirteen states now require a criminal conviction before assets can be permanently seized. In January, Governor Kasich signed into law a bill that required a criminal conviction before an individual’s assets can be permanently seized in a civil forfeiture case. The new law also increased the burden of proof and shifted the burden to the state in civil forfeiture cases.
If you need a lawyer for drug charges in the State of Ohio or Federal drug case, call Attorney W. Joseph Edwards (614-309-0243) who has over 25 years experience representing clients in these legal matters.