David Harris Comments for Washington Post on Holder’s Limiting of Seized Civil Asset Sharing
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday announced the effective end of civil asset forfeiture by local and state police, a practice in which police seized citizens’ private property, such as cash and cars, without issuing a warrant or even having to prove a crime had been committed. According to The Washington Post, since 2008—under the Justice Department’s civil asset forfeiture program Equitable Sharing, originally intended to help fund the war on drugs—local and state police agencies have seized cash and property from private citizens worth $3 billion. Police departments would often keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds from the seizures and “share” the rest with federal agencies. David Harris, Pitt Law professor and Distinguished Faculty Scholar, who is an expert on constitutional law and police behavior, supports a reversal of the policy.
“It’s high time we put an end to this damaging practice,” he said. “It has been a civil-liberties debacle and a stain on American criminal justice.”
Holder’s decision allows for exceptions such as illegal firearms, ammunition, explosives, and materials used for child pornography, which represent a small portion of seized assets.