Leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary committees have called on the Justice Department to end the sharing of civil seizure proceeds with local and state police, a change that with few exceptions would cut the flow of hundreds of million of dollars annually to departments in every state, reported The Washington Post.
In a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., the lawmakers said they think money from Justice’s Equitable Sharing Program, the federal government’s largest civil asset forfeiture initiative, may be encouraging heavy-handed tactics by local and state police agencies.
Equitable Sharing allows police who seize property under federal civil law to keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds, while Justice and other participating federal agencies can keep 20 percent or more. In 2012, the most recent year of complete data available to The Washington Post, seizures worth more than $1.5 billion in cash, cars and other property were processed through the program.
“We are concerned that these seizures might circumvent state forfeiture law restrictions, create improper incentives on the part of state and local law enforcement, and unnecessarily burden our federal authorities,” the letter said.
That effort follows a Washington Post investigation in September that found that nearly 62,000 cash seizures worth more than $2.5 billion have been made through Equitable Sharing since Sept. 11, 2001, without search warrants or indictments. The departments of Justice and Homeland Security received $800 million of that total, while thousands of local and state agencies kept the rest.
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