Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the National District Attorney’s Association that he will soon announce a plan to facilitate police department seizures of cash and property from crime suspects.
“No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime,” Sessions said.
The practice, known as adoptive forfeiture, allows local law enforcement agencies to keep money and property taken from people suspected of a crime. Most states don’t require a conviction or indictment to allow police departments to keep assets. This situation creates a profit motive. Indeed, federal agents reportedly seized more property than burglars did in 2014.
One of many high-profile abuse cases includes the Oklahoma police seizing $53,234 from the manager of a Christian rock band during a 2016 traffic stop for a broken taillight. The band earned the money from a national tour to raise funds for an orphanage in Thailand and a nonprofit Christian school in Myanmar. Ultimately, Oklahoma officials returned the money, but only after some ugly publicity about a police highway robbery.
Sessions’ plan would reverse a policy of controlling police asset forfeiture under former Attorney General Eric Holder, who wanted more judicial oversight of the practice. Holder restricted the federal government from sharing in the proceeds from some local police agency property seizures.
Under Sessions, that’s all likely to change. He told the district attorneys that adoptive forfeiture is “appropriate, as is sharing with our partners.”