On Jan. 20, 2015, the federal government dropped its case against the Hirsch family and returned $446,000 in assets and cash seized by the IRS. The agreement required the Hirschs to pay their own legal fees and cleared the feds of any wrongdoing.
The problem? The Hirschs, who own a distribution company on Long Island, were never even charged with a crime, much less convicted. They were victims of civil asset forfeiture, a process whereby government can seize property and cash they suspect is related to the commission of a crime.
Last Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered the expansion of civil asset forfeiture laws, insisting they are a “key tool” for enforcement.
A constitutionally dubious money spigot for government is more like it. And while CBS News painted Sessions’ decision as a “reversal” of former AG Eric Holder’s policies, the numbers tell a different story. During Holder’s tenure from 2009 through early 2015, the yearly dollar value of assets seized by the DOJ went from less than $2 billion to more than $5 billion.
Holder did indeed receive praise for ending the program. Yet as The Washington Post reported on March 28, 2016, the Obama administration’s DOJ — then headed by Loretta Lynch — was “resuming a controversial practice that allows local police departments to funnel a large portion of assets seized from citizens into their own coffers under federal law.”
It was a practice Lynch pursued with vigor during her tenure as U.S. attorney for the eastern district of New York.