Bad news for liberty loving Americans: Loretta Lynch was recently confirmed as the next Attorney General of the United States. As the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Lynch was quite fond of the legally perverse and constitutionally questionable practice of civil asset forfeiture.
By seizing property from a person suspected – but not convicted – of a crime, the owner of the property has to navigate through a sea of treacherous legal waters just to get the property back by proving innocence. This is not how the American justice system is supposed to work.
Lynch has called this practice a “wonderful tool” to fight crime and is on record solidly defending this practice of snatching up property of suspected criminals merely suspected of a crime. As noted by Senator Mike Lee: Many Americans don’t think the practice is fundamentally fair. She responds by saying “civil and criminal forfeiture are very important tools of the Department of Justice as well as our state and local counterparts.”
This is the first time she has defended the procedure – she has a long record of employing it herself. For example, she seized the assets of the Hirsch brothers who were represented by the Institute for Justice and in 2013 her office seized $904 million alone.
As citizens, what can we do? As always we can fight for our rights at the state and local level. More and more states are passing laws defending our rights, which will mean that members Congress have to stand up for liberty or run on a public platform that differs from their locally elected representatives. New Mexico recently required a criminal conviction before seizing individual’s cash or property. A similar bill was recently introduced in Texas.
Progress doesn’t come quick and it doesn’t come easy – even in states making progress towards defending against civil asset forfeiture, we still have much more work to do! See how your state is doing with this Institute for Justice Report. The larger Policing for Profit report is available online here.