Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Sessions' Money Grab





Even 34 months ago we read "Criminal justice reform might be the only issue that can put the Koch Institute, the Heritage foundation, and former White House green jobs czar Van Jones in the same room." Six months later, there was "activists see some advantages in their push for criminal justice reform over previous bipartisan efforts."

And only two months ago, a survey of conservative voters by the Charles Koch Institute revealed

When asked about the practice of civil asset forfeiture, which allows law-enforcement agencies to seize an individual’s property without requiring that the individual be charged or convicted of a crime, 59 percent of Trump voters found common ground with their liberal counterparts, responding that that they “strongly disagreed” or “disagreed” with such policing practices.

The Koch brothers (who have been critical of Sessions) and Trump's popular base will get a chance to be outraged now that, as The Washington Post's Christopher Ingraham reports

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday said he'd be issuing a new directive this week aimed at increasing police seizures of cash and property.

“We hope to issue this week a new directive on asset forfeiture — especially for drug traffickers,” Sessions said in his prepared remarks for a speech to the National District Attorney's Association in Minneapolis. "With care and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures. No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime. Adoptive forfeitures are appropriate as is sharing with our partners.

Sessions seems to define "drug traffickers" as individuals who could possibly sometime be thinking about selling some of their contraband. Similarly, the federal government already has a rather expansive definition of "criminal," one that presupposes guilt until innocence is proven. Ingraham explains

Asset forfeiture is a disputed practice that allows law enforcement officials to permanently take money and goods from individuals suspected of crime. There is little disagreement among lawmakers, authorities and criminal justice reformers that “no criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime.” But in many cases, neither a criminal conviction nor even a criminal charge is necessary — under forfeiture laws in most states and at the federal level, mere suspicion of wrongdoing is enough to allow police to seize items permanently.

If the two words which pop into your mind are "slush fund," don't be surprised because

many states allow law enforcement agencies to keep cash that they seize, creating what critics characterize as a profit motive. The practice is widespread: In 2014, federal law enforcement officers took more property from citizens than burglars did. State and local authorities seized untold millions more.





For extra points, the Attorney General repeated the politically correct myth “drug offenses are not nonviolent crimes, as most of you all know.” Of course, they are non-violent offenses, except to the drug addled. If a weapon is used in a drug offense- which, considering the prevalence of drug possession, is relatively infrequent- the possession or the use of the weapon arguably is a violent crime  (or as Sessions' right-wing friends would put it, "Second Amendment rights.") But a drug offense is not a violent crime; it is a drug offense, usually of possession, sometimes of sale.

Civil asset forfeiture is justified in some instances, yet is grossly abused, with merely 13 states now allowing forfeiture only after conviction for a criminal offense.   Many conservatives dislike it, presumably because it constitutes a taking of private property by government. Although their reasoning is not dead-on, conservatives can put their thumb on the scale, denounce Attorney General Sessions' perspective, and with support of the left help establish the principle that the innocent should not be punished.





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