DEA Seized $3.2 Billion in Cash Without Filing Charges or Judicial Oversight

by | Apr 3, 2017

DEA Seized $3.2 Billion in Cash Without Filing Charges or Judicial Oversight

by | Apr 3, 2017

Yesterday [March 29], the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report criticizing the DOJ’s seizures and forfeitures of cash. According to the report, of the nearly 100,000 cash seizures that occurred since 2007, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was responsible for 80 percent—a total value of $4.15 billion. Eighty-one percent of those seizures, a total value of $3.2 billion, were forfeited administratively, meaning without charging someone with a crime or any judicial oversight. As the OIG report notes, “asset seizure and forfeiture also present unique potential risks to civil liberties.”

Civil forfeiture allows law enforcement agencies to seize property and cash without any criminal charges. Administrative forfeitures happen automatically when a property owner fails to challenge a seizure in court for any reason, including the inability to afford a lawyer or a missed deadline to file a claim. The property is then forfeited through a simple paper work shuffle, with the seizing agency acting as investigator, prosecutor, and judge. As a form of civil forfeiture, administrative forfeiture presumes the property is guilty and places the burden of proving its innocence on the owner. Also, because this is not a criminal procedure, property owners are not entitled to an attorney. This makes the process prone to abuse.

Read the rest at the Institute for Justice.

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