Two dozen civil liberties activists, legal specialists and congressional staffers from across the political spectrum convened Thursday in Washington to discuss reforms for civil asset-forfeiture laws, which allow local and state police to take cash and property from Americans without proving a crime has occurred, reports the Washington Post. The meeting is the latest indication of growing dissatisfaction with a system that has generated billions of dollars in proceeds for police and the Justice Department and other federal agencies over the past decade.
Representatives of the Institute for Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Bar Association, the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, along with congressional staffers from both parties, discussed possible legislative remedies to curb abuses. The session was organized by the Institute for Justice after a series of Washington Post articles showed that local and state police have seized more that $2.5 billion from people without filing warrants or indictments since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The seizures came under the Justice Department's Equitable Sharing Program.