Some Big Loopholes In Holder’s Asset Forfeiture Reform


The reform ordered by Attorney General Eric Holder in the asset forfeiture program known as “equitable sharing” is less than meets the eye, reports Reason. Holder said that, “federal adoption of property seized by state or local law enforcement under state law is prohibited, except for property that directly relates to public safety concerns…” Holder’s policy exempts “seizures by state and local authorities working together with federal authorities in a joint task force” and “seizures by state and local authorities that are the result of joint federal-state investigations or that are coordinated with federal authorities as part of ongoing federal investigations.”

Because there are hundreds of federally funded “multijurisdictional task forces,” the first exception could prove to be very significant. Holder’s order “does not prohibit the worst uses of the equitable sharing asset forfeiture program, particularly excepting seizures in which there is federal task force participation or direction,” says Eapen Thampy of Americans for Forfeiture Reform. “As virtually every drug task force I know of has a federal liaison on call, this means business as usual by local law enforcement using civil asset forfeiture through the Equitable Sharing Program to enforce the Controlled Substances Act and other federal statutes. In other words, the exception swallows the rule.”

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