Attorney General Eric Holder announced new curbs yesterday on the government's use of civil asset forfeiture laws, saying that federal authorities will only seize bank accounts when serious illegal transactions have been documented, reports the Washington Post. The new policy amplifies an announcement in October by the Internal Revenue Service, which said its agents would use seizure authority primarily in cases when accounts’ owners are clearly using the banking system for crimes.
“With this new policy, the Department of Justice is taking action to ensure that we are allocating our resources to address the most serious offenses,” Holder said. The new limits underscore a shift in the federal government's use of civil asset forfeiture laws, which have allowed local, state and federal authorities to take billions from individuals over the past decade without proving that crimes occurred. In January, Holder barred local and state police from using federal law to seize cash and other property without warrants or criminal charges, unless federal authorities were directly involved in the case.