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Commentary By James R. Copland

It's Time to Rethink How Our Federal Agencies Seize Cash and Property

Governance, Public Safety Overcriminalization, Policing, Crime Control

Late last month the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a 74-page report on how the department oversees asset forfeitures-- the practice in which law enforcement and government agencies  seize property they believe was connected to a crime.

The asset seizures clearly needed a closer look. Regardless of how President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions feel about the topic— and both have been skeptical of reforming this system -- the new report should inform the attorney general’s newly announced Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety and prompt congressional leaders to take a closer look.

According to the OIG report, the Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigations, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms grab the assets of thousands of people annually, and there is big money involved.

The DEA alone has made more than 80,000 cash seizures resulting in forfeitures that totaled more than $4 billion over the last decade. The overall total for the Justice Department seizure program has grown over....

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James R. Copland is a senior fellow and director of legal policy at the Manhattan Institute. 

This piece originally appeared in