Sunday, January 18, 2015

local law enforcement agencies lose the cash cow

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is causing problems for Nebraska's Douglas County Sheriff Tim Dunning. According to an Omaha World-Herald article,
[Sheriff Dunning] was blindsided and upset over U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to bar local and state police from using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without proving that a crime occurred.
Holder’s action represents the most sweeping check on police power to confiscate personal property since the seizures began three decades ago as part of the war on drugs.
Confiscate personal property? Yes. Just like it sounds. Law enforcement can confiscate your property--your home, your business, your money, all without even so much as charging you with a crime. To get your property returned to you, you have to prove your property was not involved in the commission of a crime...even if you haven't been charged with a crime.
Douglas County Sheriff Tim Dunning said Friday that he fears Holder’s directive will lead to fewer forfeitures and fewer federal drug prosecutions, and to drug traffickers doing less time in state prison than they would in federal facilities. 
Fewer forfeitures means less money for the sheriff's department. Through a Department of Justice program called Equitable Sharing, a local law enforcement agency shares the loot with a federal agency. The local agency gets 80%.

Without the Equitable Sharing program, Dunning's department gets only 50% of the loot. Not only does the local law enforcement agency get a smaller share, Nebraska law makes it more difficult to confiscate property.
 It is much more difficult to seize money and property under Nebraska law, which requires law enforcement to have proof beyond a reasonable doubt of a crime compared with only a preponderance of evidence under federal law, Dunning said.
Being a highway robber is hard work.
“This benefits nobody but drug dealers,” Dunning said. “Federal law is a tremendously bigger hammer. I don’t see what hammer we are going to have over these people now.”
These people. Nice touch, Sheriff. These people have been easy targets for you.

The World-Herald says that $3 billion in cash and property has been seized in the United States in the last six years. That is a big hammer. 

Has that hammer been effective? Illegal drugs are still easily available. 

What happens without that hammer? Illegal drugs are still easily available.

Both Radley Balko and Jacob Sullum have pointed out that civil asset forfeitures will continue. Sheriff Dunning must be relieved. 

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