In 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a plan to bring back a federal program known as the “Equitable Sharing Program.” Under this program, state and local police agencies can collaborate with federal agencies to seize assets from individuals and then transfer those seizures to federal control. In doing so, local agencies can skirt some state-level regulations limiting forfeitures. The federal government eventually takes all the funds and sends 80 percent back to the state agency itself. This method has been sharply criticized for circumventing state laws in some cases.
Purpose of Asset Forfeiture and Possible Reforms
Civil forfeiture laws were originally intended to target ill-gotten gains associated with the so-called “War on Drugs.” Yet, some states have since expanded that reach to include any felony offense. There’s also no limitation on the type of property that can be seized.
Asset forfeiture reform is gaining momentum in many areas of the country, a trend that is likely to continue in the months and years to come. Why? Revenue-generating systems in which police can arbitrarily seize and forfeit property from a person who is never even charged with a crime are said to violate the constitutional rights of citizens.