Coalition Calls for Federal Forfeiture Reform

July 20, 2017 by


In the wake of a Justice Department directive reverting the federal agency’s civil forfeiture policy back to that of a more robust and unrestrained version designed to increase police seizures, a coalition of diverse organizations joined together to send congress notice that they want action on forfeiture reform immediately.

The letter was sent to the chairmen of the House and Senate committees on the judiciary, Rep. Bob Goodlatte and Sen. Chuck Grassley.

“On behalf of the undersigned organizations dedicated to the protection of civil liberties and private property, we write to express our deep disappointment with the Department of Justice’s announcement that it will expand civil forfeiture. We urge you to take swift action to reform this broken system,” read the coalition letter.

The group, headed by the Institute for Justice, represents a wide range of organizations from the ACLU to Americans for Prosperity.

All of the groups have been long-time advocates for civil forfeiture reform on both the state and federal level, but since the DOJ directive allows state and local agencies to skirt state law, they are calling for immediate federal reform.

Under the revised directive, state and local agencies could seize property and then transfer it to the federal government under federal forfeiture law and receive up to 80% of the proceeds, a policy banned under Attorney General Eric Holder. As 24 states have either abolished or created safeguards around civil forfeiture, using federal law would make it easier for innocent owners to be ensnared in the tentacles of civil forfeiture.

“Most egregiously, the Department of Justice has reversed the ban on using so-called ‘adoptive’ seizures, where state and local law enforcement can seize property under state law and transfer it to federal prosecutors for forfeiture, in exchange for up to 80 percent of the proceeds,” the letter continued, “These adoptive seizures are an affront to our nation’s federalist system because they allow state and local law enforcement to use federal forfeiture laws to circumvent state-law limitations.”

The letter ends by asking the chairmen to schedule forfeiture reform legislation, but unlike in the past, they want it done independent of criminal sentencing reform. They hope that given the nationwide opposition to civil forfeiture proceeding with the issue independent of any other reforms will boost the issue’s viability.

The following organizations have signed on to the letter:

Institute for Justice

American Civil Liberties Union

Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Drug Policy Alliance

American Commitment

Americans for Forfeiture Reform

Americans for Prosperity

Campaign for Liberty

Coalition for Public Safety

Concerned Veterans for America

The DKT Liberty Project

Freedom Partners


Generation Opportunity

The Goldwater Institute

Justice Action Network

The Libre Initiative


National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

R Street Institute


About the Author

Charles operates the Houston office for Empower Texans/Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.