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Monday, April 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Attorney General Holder|Limits Federal Seizures

WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Attorney General on Friday issued an order prohibiting federal agencies from "adopting" assets seized by state and local law enforcement, with limited exceptions for public safety.

Attorney General Eric Holder's order is the latest indication that the Obama administration does not intend to lie down during its last 2 years against a Republican Congress.

A federally adopted forfeiture, or adoption, occurs when a state or local agency seizes property and then asks that a federal agency forfeit it under federal law.

"The U.S. Department of the Treasury, which has its own forfeiture program, is issuing a policy consistent with the Attorney General's order and that policy will apply to all participants of the Treasury forfeiture program, administered by the Treasury Executive Office for Asset Forfeiture," the Department of Justice said in a statement Friday.

The public safety exceptions include guns, ammunition, explosives and property associated with child pornography.

Forfeitures have been a civil liberties concern since the Reagan administration intensified the use of the procedure for drug crimes, allowing, for instance, a yacht to be seized because a marijuana joint was found on it.

Since then, local, state and federal agencies have seized billions of dollars in cash, autos and other property based on suspicion that they were fruit of illegal acts. To challenge such seizures has been difficult and often impossible.

The Washington Post reported in September 2014 that since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, nearly $2.5 billion in cash has been seized in nearly 62,000 seizures conducted without warrants.

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