House Opposes Sessions on Expanding Asset Forfeiture

By a voice vote, indicating overwhelming support, the House votes to roll back Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ expansion of civil asset forfeiture. Sessions has revived a program that has allowed local law enforcers to avoid state laws limiting forfeiture.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved an amendment aimed at rolling back Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s expansion of asset forfeiture, The Intercept reports. The measure was sponsored by a bipartisan group of nine members, led by Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash. He was joined by Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna of California; Washington state’s Pramila Jayapal, a rising progressive star; and Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard. Using civil asset forfeiture, law enforcers can take assets from a person who is suspected of a crime, even without a charge or conviction. Sessions has revived the Justice Department’s Equitable Sharing Program, which allowed state and local police agencies to take assets and then give them to the federal government, which in turn gives a chunk back to the local police. This served as a way for these local agencies to skirt past state laws designed to limit asset forfeiture.

The amendment would roll back Sessions’ elimination of Obama-era reforms in the process. Amash said that, “Unfortunately these [Obama] restrictions were revoked in June of this year. My amendment would restore them by prohibiting the use of funds to do adoptive forfeitures that were banned under the 2015 rules.” Virginia Democratic Rep. Don Beyer backed Amash, saying, “Civil asset forfeiture without limits presents one of the strongest threats to our civil, property, and Constitutional rights. It creates a perverse incentive to seek profits over justice.” The amendment passed with a voice vote, meaning it had overwhelming support.