Didn’t take long for the Florida Sheriff’s Association to celebrate the resumption of payments from the Federal “equitable sharing” program, for the first time since late December 2015 after a surprise announcement by the Department of Justice today, as you can see below in their tweet with the official announcement.
The infamous seziure program mainly involves taking small amounts of money from citizens, who then aren’t charged with a crime.
State police, county sheriffs and municipal officers utilize the equitable sharing program to take advantage of broad, Federal civil seizure laws with limited local oversight to effectively take property outside of the boundaries of the 5th amendment’s prohibition on eminent domain taking without just compensation, or the right to due process.
Supposedly these crazy laws were enacted to fight drug kingpins.
Participating police departments seize liquid assets, or easily sold items like cars, computers, jewelry, really anything of value, and charge the property with a crime, skipping due process accorded to human criminal defendants, and turning the recovery of goods into an expensive ordeal for citizens.
They then give the seized property to Federal authorities who share 80% of the booty back to the local agency.
These seizures are an ever dangerous, profitable to law enforcement companion of America’s War on Drugs which is nothing more than a war on civil liberties and minorities, and the soul of our law enforcement agents.
Law bloggers Popehat said, “‘Equitable sharing,’ as a euphemism for theft, ranks way up there. This is Soviet quality euphemism, in action.”
Reason.com titled their story, “Bad News: The Justice Dept. Has Restarted Its Program to Share Seized Property with Police. Incentives bolstered to find reasons to take private property in the name of fighting crime.”
The Washington Post was equally blunt today, saying in their story “The feds have resumed a controversial program that lets cops take stuff and keep it” saying:
“In the months since we made the difficult decision to defer equitable sharing payments because of the $1.2 billion rescinded from the Asset Forfeiture Fund, the financial solvency of the fund has improved to the point where it is no longer necessary to continue deferring Equitable Sharing payments,” spokesman Peter J. Carr said.
Asset forfeiture is a contentious practice that lets police seize and keep cash and property from people who are never convicted — and in many cases,never charged — with wrongdoing. Recent reports have found that the use of the practice has exploded in recent years, prompting concern that, in some cases, police are motivated more by profit and less by justice.
The Washington Post’s civil rights journalist Radley Balko is leading the charge against unfair civil seizure, consistently highlighting outrageous police seizures like the Ohio college student deprived of his $11,000 in cash by Cincinnati authorities at an airport or a family’s bail money seized because a drug dog “hit” on their bank withdrawals.
Unsurprisingly, neither crime or drug use has dropped 485 percent since then, but police have coincidentally become heavily militarized since 2001 as Balko documented in his book “The Rise of the Warrior Cop.”
These Florida Sheriffs might not celebrate the return of federal seizure laws, if they had armed men with badges confiscating and charging their personal property with the occasional crime, without due process.