January 16, 2015

"Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday barred local and state police from using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without proving that a crime occurred."

"Holder’s action represents the most sweeping check on police power to confiscate personal property since the seizures began three decades ago as part of the war on drugs."

Good! (Second thing I've read about Holder today that made me write "Good!" (Here's the first.))

75 comments:

Gahrie said...

I would be more impressed if he banned federal officers from doing it also.

David said...

I'm with Gahrie. On the other hand, I believe that the law mandates confiscation in some cases, and we do get upset if Holder does not enforce the law.

As usual Congress is the source of the evil.

n.n said...

On one hand, good. On the other hand, Holder believes that consent can be offered implicitly. So, he offers a benefit of the doubt for drug-related crimes, while proactively punishing survivors of planning. It's better to have a drug-addled mind in Obama's welfare and Holder's justice system.

Bob Ellison said...

Blind chicken.

Jason said...

Yep. Feds can still seize people's property even if they have not committed a crime. Holder only prohibits other governments from doing so.

"They can't do that to our pledges.

Only WE can do that to our pledges."

Christopher said...

Well the Feds can still do it and the states can still do it (they just need to cite state law), so what will be the actual effect of this?

TCom said...

It apparently doesn't apply to 'task forces', etc.

In other words, this is meaningless.

But, hey! "Good!"

I thought we'd learned by now to never take at face value anything a politician says that sounds like it's benevolently benefiting us? Apparently not.

ThreeHeaded Throop said...

If Holder has done any good you can bet that it's fir the wrong reasons.

Likely it's to do with a pissing match between his branch of the criminal government running things and smaller, local players.

If the small rats fall into line the big rat can relent just as quickly as he strikes.

Original Mike said...

Not impressed. He just wants more booty for the Feds.

I've never understood how this practice can be legal.

Revenant said...

Well the Feds can still do it and the states can still do it (they just need to cite state law), so what will be the actual effect of this?

Quite a bit, actually.

Police in states which banned or restricted asset forfeiture would use flimsy rationalizations to "federalize" local cases in order to allow them to seize property.

The difference between such "police" and, say, the Mafia, is left as an exercise for the reader.

In any case, that particular little loophole has now been (mostly) closed.

Revenant said...

If Holder has done any good you can bet that it's fir the wrong reasons.

True.

On the other hand, after so many Presidential administrations doing bad things for the "right" reasons, a little of the reverse is appreciated.

ThreeHeaded Throop said...

Good point, Rev.

I just don't see this lasting longer than it takes to accomplish his real purpose, whatever that is. We'll see.

Christopher said...

By the way, there's a nice chart on the wikipedia page of "Civil forfeiture in the United States" showing the standards of proof necessary in the various states.

Fernandinande said...

Color me completely amazed that Holder could or would do anything right.

Let's see if the police to go along with the idea of following the Constitution.

Skipper said...

Is this a shot over the bow in Holder's war against "rascist" police?

Christopher said...

I'm fine with restricting it's use, but I can't help but think that this is a form of revenge for the criticism leveled against them by various major police organizations.

Granted, that would require me to believe that this administration is petty enough to change the law on a whim to hurt those that are critical of it......

Revenant said...

I'm fine with restricting it's use, but I can't help but think that this is a form of revenge for the criticism leveled against them by various major police organizations.

Winston Churchill once said, when criticized for his wartime support of the USSR, "if Hitler invaded Hell I would make at least a favorable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons."

Holder is a scumbag and ought to be in jail himself. He is also quite right that the major police organizations of America are corrupt and overly violent.

mccullough said...

Hopefully the states and locals will reciprocate and stop helping enforce federal law.

Paul said...

As Gahrie said...

"I would be more impressed if he banned federal officers from doing it also."

Me to!

It's a due process right when your propriety is taking without being charged with a crime nor convicted of anything.

iowan2 said...

The Instant one pointed out that Holder is preventing local and state police from seizing and profiting from those siezed assets. Its a way for Holder to penalize local and state law enforcement

Christopher said...

Except the federal ones apparently.

Revenant said...

Except the federal ones apparently.

The federal ones have never been the major problem. It is local police agencies that tend to use asset forfeiture as a piggy bank.

Birches said...


What was the first thing Holder did right today?

Danno said...

I would think it is a baby-step in the right direction. Also, I agree with Ann that it was a "good" thing from Eric Holder, and good things are far and few from him.

Anonymous said...

As someone already mentioned, it doesn't apply to task forces.

In effect, Holder is saying to State and Local governments, "Hey, if you still want a piece of the pie, you have to get on a task force."

Now, if you'd asked me yesterday what percent of asset sharing is from a task force, I'd have said 100%. But, that can't be true, right?

I mean, there must be some asset sharing with state and locals that isn't task force related or what's the point of the memo?

Zach said...

Good idea, but why limit it only to forces that he doesn't control?

Also (and this always seems like a sarcastic request when applied to the Obama administration), why not do this through Congress?

This seems like an issue where actual legislation is needed.

rhhardin said...

I wonder what Holder is up to.

As the phrase went in Catch-22

All of his friends wondered what he was up to.

"I wonder what shithead is up to."

rhhardin said...

A stopped clock can be right three times a day in the fall.

Original Mike said...

Does this cut you off from the seizure booty gravy train, eric?

Revenant said...

Now, if you'd asked me yesterday what percent of asset sharing is from a task force, I'd have said 100%. But, that can't be true, right?

9% of seizures are by task forces. They account for 43% of value seized, though.

Anonymous said...

Big Mike,

No, this doesn't have any effect on me.

I'm actually not sure who it does effect. As I stated, the only time state and locals work with the feds is on a task force.

Granted, there are times when we need more people, and there are state and locals not on a task force that join up with the task force for certain events. But then, if anything is seized, they just have the 1 guy who is on the task force file the paperwork for the asset sharing.

I'm not aware of any practical effect this will have.

Since Ann Althouse thinks this is a good thing, perhaps she can enlighten me to it's practical effects. I'm not seeing it.

As an example, imagine going to the Packers game this Sunday and Eric Holder comes out and says, "No one can enter through the B gates into the stadium."

Well, that leaves several gates still open for everyone to go through and I promise you, all 68000 fans are still going to get into the stadium.

Anonymous said...

Rev wrote;

"9% of seizures are by task forces. They account for 43% of value seized, though."

I should have been more specific.

I'm not sure where you're getting that number from, but to specify. There are tons and tons and tons of seizures the Federal government gets every day that don't include State and Local's. Therefore, they don't get any asset sharing. As an example of this, people fly into the airport and CBP is there. They declare $1,000.00 and actually have $15,000.00. CBP seizes the $15,000 as undeclared. This would count as part of the 91% I assume?

What I meant was, whenever State and Locals file with the DOJ for asset sharing, when do they do that and aren't part of the task force that seized the items, or money?

Big Mike said...

@eric, Original Mike is not me.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Big Mike.

I saw your post early on and my brain didn't register the name properly.

Original Mike said...

You can be me if you want, Bike Mike. I'm selling franchises.

Revenant said...

Also (and this always seems like a sarcastic request when applied to the Obama administration), why not do this through Congress?

Why would he ask Congress for permission to do something Congress already gave him permission to do? The law gives the feds discretion over how and when to use equitable sharing.

If he had banned it outright, he'd be sailing into "abuse of discretion" territory. But by eliminating the uses of equitable sharing that did little besides feed local police corruption while retaining the practice for cases with direct federal involvement, he's on firm ground legally.

AReasonableMan said...

So, three cheers for Eric Holder, then ...

chickelit said...

If Holder didn't ban federal seizures of money, etc. at the same time, then it's a farcical attempt to nationalize law enforcement and Althouse should be embarrassed for applauding him.

Mark said...

Just like Darth Vader he waited until the very end to reject the Dark Side.

Big Mike said...

@Original Mike, I'm pretty unique and I think I'll keep it that way. But thanks for the offer.

James Pawlak said...

Will he do the same for the IRS and other Federal Nazis? Is his action a violation of the Tenth Amendment?

chickelit said...

This Administration and its minions really are bent on enforcing a top-down set of laws, aren't they?

Here's to hoping they fail.

Original Mike said...

I don't know, Big Mike. You might want to do some due diligence first.

Insufficiently Sensitive said...

"Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday barred local and state police from using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without proving that a crime occurred."

It's the first action by Eric Holder that I could support. After six long years...

chickelit said...

James Pawlak said...Will he do the same for the IRS and other Federal Nazis? Is his action a violation of the Tenth Amendment?

Of course not. All monies must be funneled to the federal level!

Revenant said...

Therefore, they don't get any asset sharing. As an example of this, people fly into the airport and CBP is there. They declare $1,000.00 and actually have $15,000.00. CBP seizes the $15,000 as undeclared. This would count as part of the 91% I assume?

It wouldn't count as part of the 91% or the 9%. The circumstance you're describing wouldn't be part of the equitable sharing program. It would just be regular asset forfeiture.

Under equitable sharing, here is how it goes 91% of the time:

1. Police seize an asset. Federal law enforcement has no involvement.
2. The police say "hey, feds, if we claim this asset was used in a federal crime and hand it over to you, can we have 80% of it back?"
3. The feds say "sure! We'll keep the other 20%".
4. The police pocket the money and (around 95% of the time) don't bother making any arrests or charging anyone with a crime.

The other 9% are joint task forces, where both federal and local law enforcement are involved. These tend to be investigations of real crimes, as opposed to flimsy excuses for crooked local cops to line their pockets.

On top of *that*, there are all sorts of asset forfeitures that are done at the federal level, and lots more that are done at the local level without using the equitable sharing program. The main function of the ES program was to allow police working in states that restrict asset forfeiture to do an end run around the local law by trumping up a federal angle.

For example, North Carolina law requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt for asset forfeiture and doesn't allow the police to keep any of the money seized. So North Carolina cops signed up for the ES program and pocketed $11 million a year from THAT, instead.

Revenant said...

If Holder didn't ban federal seizures of money, etc. at the same time, then it's a farcical attempt to nationalize law enforcement and Althouse should be embarrassed for applauding him.

Obama derangement syndrome is no more attractive than Bush derangement syndrome was.

It is a sad state of affairs when "the police will have a harder time stealing stuff from innocent people" gets spun as bad news.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of one of those "laws" that I can never remember the name of. If we know the subject the newspaper column is talking about, we know the column is 90% wrong and inaccurate. But then we turn the page and believe everything we read on subjects of which we know nothing.

The program has enabled local and state police to make seizures and then have them “adopted” by federal agencies, which share in the proceeds. The program allowed police departments and drug task forces to keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds of the adopted seizures, with the rest going to federal agencies.

This is almost completely backwards to how Ive experienced this working.

The police don't run around seizing stuff, and then calling up the Feds and saying, "Hey, we'll give you 20% if you say this is your seizure!"

At least, not in my experience. I suppose it can happen.

It's the other way around. The Federal Government seizes 100% of the items and then the state and locals DAG it (A slang term for the filling out of the DAG-71 form). On the DAG form, the State and Locals request 100% of the money and usually don't get it. I don't know who decides, but someone decides they get X amount and the Federal government writes them a check for that amount.

I'm intensely curious right now to know what practical effect this is going to have. My inclination is to say absolutely zero, but, like Donald Rumsfeld once said, "There are known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns."

And I'm sure there is something unknown here for me.

Christopher said...

"Gell-Mann Amnesia"

Anonymous said...

Rev wrote;

It wouldn't count as part of the 91% or the 9%. The circumstance you're describing wouldn't be part of the equitable sharing program. It would just be regular asset forfeiture.

I see. I'm unaware of state and locals where I live doing that sort of thing. But....


It is a sad state of affairs when "the police will have a harder time stealing stuff from innocent people" gets spun as bad news


I think you're wrong about this. But like you, I can't see the future.

Suppose the result of this isn't the state and local police forces having a harder time "Stealing stuff from innocent people" but instead, just having to answer more to the Federal Government?

In other words, is it a good thing if, in the end, the seizures continue but more and more State and Locals join up with Task Forces and are subject to Federal pressure?

I remember back in the 80's, some States allowed drinking at the age of 18. Then the Federal Government stepped in and said, "No more money for highways unless you raise the drinking age to 21." Well, they wanted their money so they listened to the Federal Government and complied.

Are State and Local police going to be happy with less money? Less seizures?

I doubt it.

What's the way around this?

Join up with task forces. Task forces that are controlled by the federal government.

Revenant said...

The police don't run around seizing stuff, and then calling up the Feds and saying, "Hey, we'll give you 20% if you say this is your seizure!" At least, not in my experience. I suppose it can happen.

Can, and routinely does. 91% of ES cases had no federal involvement beyond local police asking the feds to launder the money.

Anonymous said...

Rev wrote;

Can, and routinely does. 91% of ES cases had no federal involvement beyond local police asking the feds to launder the money.

How does this happen?

I'm thinking a State trooper pulls over a vehicle for some reason. Then finds $100,000.00 in the backseat. He doesn't have a crime that's evident but he suspects one.

He calls up a federal agency, like DEA, and says, "Hey, I've pulled this car over and they have $100,000.00 in cash. I don't have a State crime to charge them with, but I'm sure it's drug money. Can you come down and seize it?"

And then the DEA agent says, "Hell yeah, see you soon!"

After the DEA agents seizes the money, the State Trooper submits a DAG and gets 80% of the money back?

Revenant said...

In other words, is it a good thing if, in the end, the seizures continue but more and more State and Locals join up with Task Forces and are subject to Federal pressure?

"Sure, we steal money hand over fist, but maybe the feds will pressure us to steal MORE!" is not a sensible argument against this change.

Revenant said...

How does this happen?

In the 91% of cases with no direct federal involvement it happens like you said, with a few corrections:

1. The feds don't seize the money. The local cop does.

2. The amount seized is usually in the thousands -- i.e., an ideal amount for making it cost-ineffective for the victim to go to court to get it back.

Anonymous said...

Rev writes;

"Sure, we steal money hand over fist, but maybe the feds will pressure us to steal MORE!" is not a sensible argument against this change.

Now you're just being silly.

I see 2 possible outcomes here.

1) State and Locals accustomed to this money say, "Well shucks, Eric Holder stopped us from getting all that money. Guess we'll just quit doing what we've been doing for years. Drat that Eric Holder!"

or

2) State and Locals that are accustomed to this money will say, "We need to get our officers on task forces STAT so we can keep this money! Mr. Eric Holder Sir, what can we do to get on a task force? Please tell us!"

As I said before, I can't see the future, nor can you. But I find scenario 2 much more plausible.

If by your snark above you see scenario 1 as more plausible, well, talk about not being sensible.

Anonymous said...

Rev wrote;

"1. The feds don't seize the money. The local cop does."

If the local cop seizes the money, then what does the equitable sharing program have to do with it?

Revenant said...

If the local cop seizes the money, then what does the equitable sharing program have to do with it?

Under the equitable sharing program, the local police seize the assets, then transfer them to the feds; the feds then initiative the forfeiture claim. Then the feds give back 80% of the proceeds.

You and read about the program at the DOJ site here, and read the Institute for Justice's analysis of forfeiture abuse here.

I, on the other hand, am off to dinner and Minecrafting. :)

Original Mike said...

"He calls up a federal agency, like DEA, and says, "Hey, I've pulled this car over and they have $100,000.00 in cash. I don't have a State crime to charge them with, but I'm sure it's drug money. Can you come down and seize it?"

And you don't have a problem with the seizure? After all, the trooper is sure it's drug money.

Anonymous said...

Rev,

I'm not sure what you're talking about. The first paragraph states;

"A Guide to Equitable Sharing for State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies applies only to the
sharing of assets that were seized by Department of Justice investigative agencies and federal
agencies participating in the Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program and that were fofeited judicially or administratively to the United States by the United States Attorney’s Offices or Forfeiture Program participants"

You wrote the Feds don't seize the money.

So now I'm confused. I followed your link. Please explain.

Anonymous said...

Original Mike wrote;

And you don't have a problem with the seizure? After all, the trooper is sure it's drug money.

Depends on circumstances and details. I think there out to be due process of law and if that's not happening, then the money ought not be seized.

But my example isn't to discuss the rightness or wrongness of it, but if Holders announcement today changes anything practically speaking.

I don't think it does.

Anonymous said...

Eric, read the section on "Adoption of a state or local seizure", page 6; that's the part of the program that has apparently been abolished. The IJ link is good for determining the state-level effect of today's change: the states where it will matter are the ones with a good "Law Grade" but a bad "Evasion Grade".

Anonymous said...

Paul,

I don't think that's the part that's been abolished.

Above that, it reads,

"How Do Agencies Participate in the Equitable Sharing Program?
A. Joint investigation
Joint investigations are those in which federal agencies work with state or local law enforcement
agencies or foreign countries to enforce federal criminal laws. Joint investigations may originate from
participation on a federal task force or a formal task force comprised of state and local agencies or from
state or local investigations that are developed into federal cases.
"

Because task forces have been exempted from this, it seems as though the highlighted portion is the part that has been abolished.

Anonymous said...

Actually Paul, reading that again, I think you're right.

The part 2 has been abolished.

Which leads me to believe that part 1 will now be abused. All seizures will be adopted by a task force now.

Robert Cook said...

"And you don't have a problem with the seizure? After all, the trooper is sure it's drug money."

It doesn't--or shouldn't--matter what the trooper is sure of. It's up to the courts to prove a crime has been committed and that the money or property being seized is the fruit of criminal activity.

Asset forfeiture is nothing less than an act of theft by a criminal state.

Clyde said...

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Achilles said...

Republicans should be ashamed that Eric Holder has done more to end government theft than they have. It is almost as if they aren't really interested in a smaller government that recognizes due process.

Revenant said...

You wrote the Feds don't seize the money. So now I'm confused. I followed your link. Please explain.

Try reading more than one paragraph.

I've already explained how it works. The documents I linked give extensive details. The rest is up to you. :)

Jerry Wyrosdick said...

Great judgement! This is going to be the finest moment in the entire career of Eric Holder. After few years post retirement, he can look back and take lot of pride.

Anonymous said...

Note that the Post article says that "illegal firearms" are exempt from the new order. The exact text is "property that relates to public safety concerns, including firearms...." However, the Request for Adoption form makes clear that as long as it's a firearm, it is exempt from the new order (and therefore subject to seizure), regardless whether there is a public safety concern and regardless whether the firearm is "illegal" or not. A public safety concern must only be stated (on the form) for items other than the four listed exemptions.

Documents available here: http://www.justice.gov/criminal/afmls/equitable-sharing/

Rusty said...

Insufficiently Sensitive said...
"Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday barred local and state police from using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without proving that a crime occurred."

It's the first action by Eric Holder that I could support. After six long years...

I agree. Which makes me wonder. What's his ulterior motive?

Scott said...

Why now? Why has he waited so long?

Anonymous said...

Even a. Blind hog like Holder can find two acorns in six years.

JSD said...

Rev is correct about the mechanics of asset seizures. In South Texas, we’re talking about millions of dollars every month. Local law enforcement doesn’t want to go it alone, they do it under the cover of the Feds. 80% of the money comes back with no hassles. Expenditure of seizure money is subject to federal control under OMB and Justice Department oversight. Unfortunately, most municipalities have poor spending controls and have no idea where the money went.

Marc Puckett said...

Thank you, Revenant and everyone, for an instructive and fruitful conversation. Sed Holder criminatus est.

Achilles said...

JSD said...

"... Unfortunately, most municipalities have poor spending controls and have no idea where the money went."

Same place our speeding tickets and red light camera tickets or state lottery revenues go. Remember it is "for the children."