Civil Asset Forfeiture Will Not Make America Great Again
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Civil Asset Forfeiture Will Not Make America Great Again

Our government should be for the people, not profit.

Civil Asset Forfeiture Will Not Make America Great Again
The Nation

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is pushing to eliminate restrictions and reinstitute the practice of civil asset forfeiture, which is both constitutionally and ethically questionable and could easily lead to an increase in negative attitudes toward law enforcement officers. Asset forfeiture occurs when property (typically cash) is taken from citizens by police agencies who suspect that the property may have been obtained illegally, like from dealing drugs. From face value, this may seem fine, but when breaking down the process of Session’s form of civil asset forfeiture it becomes easy to see how this process is a social nightmare that no one who claims to care about the law and the officers who bravely enforce it should support.

First and foremost, civil asset forfeiture should not be used for the simple fact that it is completely unconstitutional. Promoting this process is the exact same as saying someone is guilty until proven innocent, not innocent until proven guilty, for having property someone thinks is questionable. For an officer to seize property because they suspect (or claim to suspect) that the property is used illegally goes against the citizen’s right to due-process. By doing this, American citizens are punished by the government that claims to protect them in an act that exchanges standards of the criminal justice system for an act of civil law and opinion.

There are two major elements of civil asset forfeiture that cause conflict, which is the promotion of The War on Drugs and the financial benefit of the police. Civil asset forfeiture typically occurs in alleged drug cases. For example, in the past decade, the Drug Enforcement Administration alone has seized over 3 billion in cash from people who have not been charged with any crime, and they are capable of using that cash for their own benefit. Law enforcement agencies do the same thing. In the most blatant way to put it, police officers and the departments directly benefit from CAF. Cash, property obtained and later sold, and vehicles are all used to materialistically and financially benefit those who confiscate due to suspicious and circumstantial opinion, creating a major conflict of interest. Think about how many random police officers you have seen in new sports cars patrolling around. That’s not from any other form of funding other than forfeiture

Clearly, there is already a pervasive issue when it comes to who reaps the benefit of seized property and why it is seized in the first place, so the last thing any political figure should do is push using an unethical and subjective process like this. Civil asset forfeiture does violate due process by assuming a citizen is guilty without the right to a fair trial first, and these assumptions are easily based on bias, prejudice, and stereotypes. It also creates a major conflict of interest when the officers and departments who confiscate financially benefit from this lack of criminal justice order. In a brutal addition, promoting forfeiture could actually create an entirely different problem when it comes to negative social opinions and attitudes on law enforcement.

If you care about police officers, you wouldn’t promote civil asset forfeiture due to a risk of uncivil responses in society toward the brave people who vow to protect and serve. We’ve all heard the numbers about stereotyping and police brutality, the assault videos, and unfortunate stories about wrongful convictions and murder due to bias and prejudice. Due to social media, there has also been a noteworthy increase in the amount of people calling out these issues and working to prevent them from continuing to occur. With this type of exposure, there has also unfortunately been a decrease in respect toward the police force and an increase in anger, fear, and even hatred. People don’t like physical and legal police brutality and prejudice, and in turn, a negative social stigma now rides on the backs of those who sacrifice their lives every day in the field.

Promoting civil asset forfeiture will open the door for an increase in abuse from the officers due to the financial gain. It will cause an uproar when an increase in people are wrongfully stereotyped and forced to financially and materialistically suffer from a total lack of due process and legal backing. And it will, in turn, cause an increase in negative opinions, disrespect, and potential violence against the people acting on a crooked government policy that should not exist in the first place.

Sessions, if you’re truly working with the notion to “make American great again” why are you pushing to end restrictions on a practice that is blatantly unconstitutional, incredibly subjective and a social detriment, and harmful to citizens on both sides of the law? We get you want to cut back on drug trafficking and think that if the police force can financially benefit in the process then it has to be a win-win. From face value, most people will agree that our country has a drug problem and the police could use some help, but at the expense of innocent citizens vowed to be protected?

When it comes to the law and the protection of those who enforce it, it isn’t so black and white. By eliminating restrictions on forfeiture and promoting that the police use it, innocent people will wrongfully suffer, negative social responses and violence against the police will continue to rise, and our constitutional right to due process will fly right out the window along with our faith in a government claiming to be for the people.

It’s the job of the government to protect the people it serves, and that includes those who enforce said government policy. If we’re truly going to make American great, we should be promoting respect for the law and the people who govern it, not deprive citizens of liberty or property without due process and the process due in these cases — which are predicated on unrightful bias in underlying assumed criminal activity — at the expense of the people, police officers included.

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