There’s been a lot of grumbling on both sides of the political isle about the mammoth spending bill recently passed by Congress, but some of the details of the cuts included are just coming to light and the Denver Post has uncovered a rare gem.
Congress slashed the Justice Department’s asset forfeiture program by nearly a half million dollars and the agency has announced they won’t be seizing the property of unconvicted suspects and sharing in the spoils with local law enforcement next year.
Earlier this year state Sen. Laura Woods, R-Arvada, offered a bill to tighten rules on these so-called equitable-sharing arrangements, which have become the most lucrative examples of “policing for profit,” as the Washington-based Institute for Justice calls them.
Colorado’s rules for seizing property of people who are neither charged nor convicted were tightened considerably (if not sufficiently) in 2002. However, a loophole allows local agencies to partner with federal agencies under much less rigorous rules. And this is the case around the nation.
It’s one thing to seize the property of a drug kingpin with billions in assets who is convicted of their crime. It’s called theft when someone is robbed of their property because they are suspected, but never convicted of a crime.
“Using civil forfeiture, the government can take your home, business, cash, car or other property on the mere suspicion that it is somehow connected to criminal activity — and without ever convicting or even charging you with a crime,” the Institute for Justice report explained.
We think the Justice Department program should be killed outright. Federal and state law enforcement should be focused on crime prevention and catching criminals, not seizing fancy new vehicles to be used for undercover work, or the old used cars confiscated from poorer suspects that are likely scrapped for a handful of dollars.
The presumption of innocent until proven guilty is the basis of our judicial system, we should not allow that to be sidetracked by government greed.