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U.S. restoring asset seizures _ with safeguards — APNewsBreak

U.S. restoring asset seizures _ with safeguards — APNewsBreak”

Citing these concerns, the Justice Department under Obama sought to scale back the practice in 2015. "In departments across this country, funds that were once used to take lives are now being used to save lives". Law enforcement groups praised the initiative, which has helped them pay for everything from drug dogs and bulletproof vests to overdose antidotes. Federal agencies, for example, must continually review seizures to ensure they were done legally. The Justice Department touted the policy on Wednesday, arguing it would "better protect victims of crime and innocent property owners".

Local police will now be able to seize cash, often from those suspected of drug crimes, even in states that do not condone the policy. Without at least one of those conditions, authorities will need a federal prosecutor's approval to seize it under federal law.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions held a press conference announcing the dismantling of the largest dark website in the world.

Sessions faced sharp bipartisan blowback after previewing plans to "increase forfeitures" earlier in the week, but he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein emphasized Wednesday that the department added new rules to help curb abuses of the program that they say won't step on suspects' constitutional rights.

More than 20 states have enacted their own laws limiting asset forfeiture, either by first requiring a criminal conviction or by raising the threshold for when police can take property during an investigation. "We are talking about Americans who have had their homes, cars, money and other property taken through civil forfeiture, which requires only mere suspicion that the property is connected to a crime", said Kanya Bennett, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.

"The stories of people having small amounts of cash seized are more infuriating and puzzling to the public and seem to represent some greater injustice", said David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who studies the topic.

Up to 80 percent of the proceeds from a seizure can be shared with local agencies under the Justice Department's adoptive forfeiture program. But the broader, more pressing problems with asset forfeiture remain because police departments are still too reliant on taking private property as a way to foot their bills, he said.

The Justice Department under President Donald Trump has made efforts to improve relationships with local and state law enforcement, which they viewed as damaged under the Obama administration.

The new policy mandates more training for local officers whose departments engage in the program, the official said.

And some legal advocacy groups said Sessions' attempt at imposing new safeguards missed the mark.



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