The federal government is bringing back its Equitable Sharing Program just months after shutting it down. The “Department of Justice” announced the decision to bring the civil asset forfeiture program back this week, meaning participating local and state law enforcement agencies will enjoy getting a piece of the pie whenever a task force seizes property:
"The Department of Justice is pleased to announce that, effective immediately, the Department is resuming Equitable Sharing payments to State, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies. As you know, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 included a $746 million permanent reduction, or “rescission,” that, when combined with the additional rescission of $458 million contained in the Consolidated Appropriations Act signed into law in December 2015, reduced Asset Forfeiture Program funds by $1.2 billion. Those rescissions threatened the financial solvency of the Assets Forfeiture Fund, and forced the Department to take cost-cutting steps across all discretionary programs, including on December 21, 2015, the deferral of Equitable Sharing payments."
A lot of people are probably sitting here going, “So what? The people they’re seizing items from have committed crimes.” That’s not true. Criminal asset forfeiture involves seizing items from people who are charged for a crime. Civil asset forfeiture is completely different with the DOJ defining it as action taken against the property itself because it may have been involved in a crime. No charges against any person is needed. This goes against the Fourth and Fifth Amendments because it violates the search and seizure clause and it deprives property from someone without due process.
So why do authorities do it? For the cash, of course. Law enforcement seized $3.9B in property in civil asset forfeiture in 2014, while only seizing $697M in criminal asset forfeiture. This includes a case out of Philadelphia where a family lost their $350K home because their son happened to sell $40 worth of heroin, even though the family told CNN they didn’t know what the 22-year-old was doing.