Holder also said the program is no longer necessary, because when it was established few states had their own asset forfeiture laws, but now all of them do.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced a substantial shift in federal asset forfeiture policy, largely eliminating a program that encouraged police to seize the money and goods of people even if they weren’t accused of any crimes.
Under a Department of Justice program called “equitable sharing,” state and local police were able to seize money and property from people if they thought it was connected with the drug trade or other illegal activities, even if the holders of the property were not suspected of any crimes. They could then have these seizures “adopted” by the federal government, which would then let police departments keep most of the proceeds.
In order to reclaim their property, the original owners had to prove to a court that it wasn’t involved with criminal activities.
The program was a favorite of police departments because it often allowed them to evade tougher state-level asset forfeiture laws, and made it easier for seized assets to primarily remain with the departments themselves. Many state-level laws send all seizures into a state’s general fund in order to discourage corruption.