Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday announced sweeping changes to the civil asset forfeiture program, effectively prohibiting state and local law enforcement from using Federal law to seize cash, cars and other property. The National Sheriffs’ Association is deeply disappointed by the announcement and the potential impact on communities across the country.
“This new policy will reduce by half the number of adoptive asset forfeiture cases without a full understanding by the Department of Justice of the impact of those reductions. Though the Attorney General allowed law enforcement to voice concerns and make suggestions, he based these changes on assumptions regarding alleged misuses of the program. There has not been a comprehensive review of the civil asset forfeiture program, despite encouragement from law enforcement for the Department to conduct such a review. Instead, Attorney General Holder fast-tracked changes that will have negative effects on law enforcement,” said National Sheriffs’ Association Interim Executive Director John Thompson.
The civil asset forfeiture has been used by state and local law enforcement for over twenty years as an effective tool in the drug war. In limiting the Federal adoptions of state and local seizures, the Department of Justice has taken away this tool and, once again, made it more difficult for state and local law enforcement to do its job.
“Sheriffs have utilized the civil asset forfeiture program to limit the reach of criminal enterprises all over the country and with great success. These seizures often fund state and local agency participation in drug task forces and other joint efforts. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office is involved in ten different task forces and, as a result of this change, I will be forced to cut our participation immediately by at least half,” said NSA President, Sheriff John Aubrey (Jefferson County, Kentucky). “The Department of Justice has acted prematurely and the unknown impact of these changes could have crippling effects on state and local law enforcement to participate in those task forces.”