Success: Loophole to Seize Citizen Property Closed


Target: Attorney General Eric Holder

Goal: Praise the decision to prohibit law enforcement agencies from accepting civil assets forfeited from drug arrests regardless of the suspect’s conviction.

Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced a new policy regarding civil asset forfeiture in drug arrest cases. For years, state and local law enforcement agencies have been able to seize assets including cash, cars and other property from those arrested for drug violations, regardless of whether or not the person was actually convicted of a crime. Law enforcement would then submit the seized property to the Department of Justice for processing and distribution under the department’s Equitable Sharing Program.

As activists have pointed out for years, the Department of Justice’s old policy, created under the guise of fighting the War on Drugs, was unjust and tantamount to legal theft, its purpose deliberately intended to allow law enforcement agencies to circumvent state law and illegally keep seized assets. Widespread abuse of this policy was clearly documented for years by several major new outlets. However, the Department’s new policy is to refuse assets seized without a conviction, closing this legal theft loophole.

While there is still much more that needs to be done regarding the federal government’s stance on drug use, Holder’s new policy is a key step in the much-needed revision of the United States’ drug policy. Thanks to the efforts of activists, including those who signed our petition here on ForceChange, we are making progress toward a much more sane and just drug policy. Please take a moment to applaud Attorney General Holder’s decision and tell him to keep up the good work.


Dear Attorney General Holder,

For more than 20 years, the Department of Justice’s policy on civil asset forfeiture represented one of the greatest and most glaring oversteps of government authority in the War on Drugs. The federal government’s policy of seizing and redistributing property, regardless of whether a person had actually been convicted of any wrongdoing, was tantamount to legal theft, and abuse of this policy was well-documented.

Your recent decision to refuse asset forfeiture without a conviction is a great step forward on the long march toward creating a more fair and humane drug policy. While there is still much more to be done, stopping this clearly draconian and abusive practice demonstrates a willingness to make progress and work toward more effective drug legislation.

Along with some of the other work you have done in reconciling the federal government to newly-developed state marijuana industries, your recent decision marks the continuation of a positive and welcome trend. We, the undersigned, applaud your decision and hope it is only the latest in an ongoing series of such reexaminations of U.S. drug policy.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: U.S. Embassy via Flickr

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