A bipartisan group of senators is asking the chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee to defund a Department of Justice effort to expand the use of civil asset forfeiture, and said the department's effort is an attack on "principles of federalism."
“DOJ’s reinstated policy allows state law enforcement officers to circumvent state limitations on civil forfeiture by turning seized property over to federal officials for forfeiture in exchange for up to 80% of the proceeds of the property. This perversely incentivizes local law enforcement to confiscate suspect property even where state laws forbid the practice,” said the letter to Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, was joined by fellow Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Mike Crapo of Idaho, along with Democrat Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Tom Udall of New Mexico, in signing the letter. Sen. Angus King, I-Vt., also signed the letter requesting the defunding of civil asset forfeiture expansion.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in July the Justice Department would expand its practice of civil asset forfeiture, which allows law enforcement to seize any property they allege is involved in a crime. Police can keep or sell the property, which could vary from cash to cars to real estate.
As the chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, Shelby is working to negotiate an appropriations bill that includes the Justice Department’s funds for the 2018 fiscal year.
“We urge you to defund implementation of these practices,” the letter to Shelby read.
The House has also passed three amendments to block the Justice Department from reinstating the civil asset forfeiture expansion policy.