WSJ Report on Excessive Use of Federal Forfeitures

As the Wall St. Journal says, the feds' ramped up use of forfeitures is snaring the property of the innocent as well as the guilty. It's an issue both the right and the left agree on: The expansion of forfeiture powers is part of a broader growth in recent decades of the federal justice system that has seen hundreds of new criminal laws passed. Some critics have dubbed the pattern as the overcriminalization of American life. The forfeiture system has opponents across the political spectrum, including representatives of groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union on the left and the Heritage Foundation on the right. They argue it represents a widening threat to innocent people. As David Smith, author of the leading text book on forfeiture law, says: "We are paying assistant U.S. attorneys to carry out the theft of property from often the most defenseless citizens," given that people sometimes have limited resources to fight a seizure after their assets are taken, says David Smith, a former Justice Department forfeiture official and now a forfeiture lawyer in Alexandria, Va. This needs a lot more attention. The money does not just go to crime victims. In drug cases, for example, there are no financial victims. Very rarely do you see a restitution order in a drug case. The Government just gets to keep the funds — or share them with local law enforcement. It's such a racket.

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