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Justice Department Suspends Assets Forfeiture Program for Local Police

frozen-cash2By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A controversial program that allows local police to seize and keep cash and property from people who were never charged or convicted of a crime is ending, the Justice Department announced Monday.

Federal forfeiture policies were long considered unfair by defense attorneys because police were allowed to keep up to 80% of the assets they seized, even when no charges were filed, the Washington Post reports.

The Justice Department announced it’s suspending the program due to budget cuts.

“While we had hoped to minimize any adverse impact on state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners, the Department is deferring for the time being any equitable sharing payments from the Program,” M. Kendall Day, chief of the asset forfeiture and money laundering section, wrote in a letter to state and local law enforcement agencies.

Some in the criminal justice community charged that police were pursuing cases because of profits.

“This is a significant deal,” said Lee McGrath, legislative counsel at the Institute for Justice, in an interview with the Washington Post. “Local law enforcement responds to incentives. And it’s clear that one of the biggest incentives is the relative payout from federal versus state forfeiture. And this announcement by the DOJ changes the playing field for which law state and local [law enforcement] is going to prefer.”


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