Society

DOJ's Asset Forfeiture Program Should Continue

| by Mark Jones

The United States Department of Justice's Asset Forfeiture Program is extremely important and greatly benefits the people of the United States. While it may have some flaws, it is imperative that this program is protected at all costs. 

On the DOJ's website, the purpose of the Asset Forfeiture Program is to allow for "the seizure and forfeiture of assets that represent the proceeds of, or were used to facilitate federal crimes." According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the assets that are seized can be kept or sold by law enforcement. 

The program was created with the intention of making it more difficult for crimes to be committed, especially for larger crime organizations that rely on such materials for their operations. 

The purpose of the Asset Forfeiture Program is very obviously an important one. By seizing materials that have been used to commit crimes, the DOJ makes it more difficult for such crimes to be committed in the future, thereby benefiting society. The fact that they keep some of the funds allows them to do their job -- which is to protect their community -- better. 

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However, not everyone sees the program in this positive light. 

An article released by The Associated Press on March 28 stated that the DOJ's inspector general had issued a report that outlines many problems found within the program. The report claimed that the department does not have enough data to ensure that seized property stems from criminals and that it is not being taken from someone who has not committed a crime. 

In addition, it also claimed that those involved in asset forfeitures are not required to have any knowledge of the laws surrounding the practice. 

These assertions are objectively false. According to the department, the inspector general relied on flawed data in order to come to erroneous conclusions and launch false accusations. In addition, he also ignored the training in asset forfeiture that the department provides.  

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In fact, there are several concrete examples of how the inspector general's concerns are already being addressed. For example, in 2015, former Attorney General Eric Holder made policies more specific in order to ensure that property was not wrongfully seized. 

Concerns are taken seriously at the local level as well.

For example, in October of 2015, The Topeka Capital-Journal published an article about a joint effort between conservative billionaire Charles Koch and the ACLU to restrict the seizure of assets. Their concern was that those who were not involved in crimes would have their property wrongfully seized. 

In response to these efforts, San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen said that his department had never seized assets unless the person had been convicted. In addition, he warned against efforts to discontinue the program. 

"The end result of this is the cartels are going to ramp up their money laundering and cash exchanges in the state of New Mexico tenfold," he said. 

Christensen's assertion shows that the Asset Forfeiture Program is essential in ensuring that crime rates do not escalate. Even though the program might have flaws, those flaws can always be addressed. In contrast, dissolving the program would be an incredibly unwise choice that would have permanent and negative repercussions for all.

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources: AP, DOJ, ACLU, The Topeka Capital-Journal / Photo credit: Scott/Flickr

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