Attorney General Jeff Sessions was a notorious drug warrior while serving in the Senate. Those hoping that President Donald Trump, who actually supported the full legalization of drugs in the past, would reign Sessions in have had their hopes dashed as Sessions announced today that federal civil asset forfeitures will expand during the Trump administration.
“[W]e hope to issue this week a new directive on asset forfeiture—especially for drug traffickers,” Sessions said to a National District Attorneys Association conference in Minneapolis Monday. “With care and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures. No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime. Adoptive forfeitures are appropriate as is sharing with our partners.”
Civil asset forfeiture is a legal fiction created by government lawyers to seize assets from suspected criminals before they are even convicted in a court of law. By charging the property in question with a civil suit rather than the individual, law enforcement is able to sell off assets of the accused before the alleged criminal can be proven guilty. This has led to some of the most heinous abuses imaginable to occur, and states have taken action to nullify these unjust laws in recent years.
“Ordinary Americans see that civil forfeiture is unconstitutional, and 24 states have taken steps to roll back civil forfeiture laws,” said Darpana Sheth, an Institute for Justice attorney. The Institute for Justice is a Washington D.C. think-tank that works to raise awareness of civil asset forfeiture and push for sensible reforms. “The Attorney General’s plan to increase forfeitures is jarringly out of step with those positive developments.”
This news should come as shock to nobody, as President Trump publicly shamed a Republican state lawmaker for attempting to curb civil asset forfeiture in February. Sessions’ proposed policies are raising the ire of some of the legislature’s more conservative lawmakers such as Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).
“As Justice Thomas has previously said, there are serious constitutional concerns regarding modern civil asset forfeiture practices. The Department has an obligation to consider due process constraints in crafting its civil asset forfeiture policies,” Lee said in a statement to Reason Magazine.
Unfortunately for liberty-loving Americans, Lee’s logic has fallen on deaf ears with the Trump administration. The drug warriors have won this round, and Sessions will effectively double-down on one of the most egregiously unconstitutional policies America has ever known.