Attorney General Jeff Sessions released policy directive 17-1 yesterday in which he announced a new Civil Asset Forfeiture program. What Sessions really did was reinstate the old Asset Forfeiture program that had been in place under AG Eric Holder. Allow me to explain.
Civil asset forfeiture – or civil seizure – occurs when law enforcement agencies seize property they suspect has been used in – or originates from – criminal activity. The item being seized is itself suspected of having been involved in a crime. It is literally a civil action against the property. Criminal charges against the owner of the property are not required – nor is an actual conviction.
In order to get the property back, the property owner must initiate a lawsuit, providing proof that the property was not used in – or acquired by – illegal means. Unlike a criminal trial, where “beyond a reasonable doubt” is the legal threshold – in a civil case, the “preponderance of evidence” standard applies. All the government need do is present enough evidence that makes the claim of illegality more likely than not.Continue Reading