Justice Department Reverses Eric Holder Policy On Civil Asset Forfeiture

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday rolled out a new civil asset forfeiture policyaimed at expanding law enforcement’s ability to seize property from people suspected of criminal activity.

The new policy allows the federal government to take all assets seized lawfully by state or local law enforcement whenever the crime causing the seizure violates federal law. The Justice Department said the change advances Sessions’ recently created task force to combat violent crime and will crack down on criminals.

Critics have argued the civil asset forfeiture seizes property from people who are innocent and are never charged with a crime. But Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told reporters on Wednesday that the aim of the change is to focus on assets related to criminal activity.

“It’s not about taking assets from innocent people,” Rosenstein said. “It’s about taking assets that are the proceeds of […] criminal activity, primarily drug dealing.”

Rosenstein added civil asset forfeiture is “not about criminal convictions, it’s about seizing the proceeds of crime. Sometimes there will be criminal prosecutions, sometimes there won’t.”

Sessions’ new policy reverses a 2015 decision by former Attorney General Eric Holder that put restrictions on civil asset forfeiture.

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