Asset Forfeiture by police officers is controversial for the simple reason that in most cases, the intended targets are hardly the ones whose assets are seized. On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said during a speech at the National District Attorney's Association that the Department of Justice was going to implement a new directive on the practice. Of course, given the authoritative style of Jeff Sessions' legislation, it's correctly assumed that it's to ramp up directives for more asset forfeitures than to reel them in.

Seizing assets from innocent civilians

In his remarks, he specifically said that they would implement the new directives for asset forfeitures, "especially for drug traffickers," which could be interpreted to assume no one else would be targeted.

He also added that the Justice Department would conduct the practice "with care and professionalism," which could also assume to mean that law enforcement would be careful to not seize assets from non-criminals or those with lesser crimes.

Asset forfeiture is when law enforcement officials take money and property from suspects. One has to wonder if Sessions intends to improve the process of seizing those assets when so far, criminal convictions nor charges have been required for law enforcement to take that property. One report by the Washington Post said that forfeiture laws in most states only require the mere suspicion of wrongdoing for an officer to immediately seize that property.

Federal enforcement to defy state laws

The Washington Post referred to their own reporting from 2015 in an article, "Law enforcement took more stuff from people than burglars did last year," which said that both the Treasury and the Justice Department deposited more than $5 billion in their asset forfeiture funds in 2014.

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In comparison, the report pointed to another report by the FBI which put burglary losses at $3.5 billion. Of course, all property stolen came to $12.3 billion from larceny and theft, not just burglary.

The latest Washington Post report also said that the Drug Enforcement Administration has taken more than $3 billion in cash from people who were not charged with a crime since 2007. It points to cases like when police officers in Oklahoma took $53,000 dollars from a Christian band last year, a church and an orphanage. One of these incidents was simply after stopping a man for a broken taillight.

It seems that the asset forfeiture practice became such a problem with innocent civilians that 13 states now only allow law enforcement to seize property if there is a conviction. Jeff Sessions made no secret about getting around state laws by expanding "adoptive forfeiture" which allows officers to process those cases under a federal statute. During his speech, he said that adoptive forfeitures were appropriate. Here is one segment about the new effort from CBS News.