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Sessions' forfeiture fondness: Legally & morally wrong

| Friday, July 21, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions waits before speaking to federal, state and local law enforcement officials earlier this month in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Attorney General Jeff Sessions waits before speaking to federal, state and local law enforcement officials earlier this month in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions couldn't have been more wrong, legally and morally, when he recently told a National District Attorneys Association gathering in Minneapolis that he favors expanding civil asset forfeiture. Seizing cash, cars, houses and other property allegedly linked to crime without convicting its owners of anything is a noxious blight on due process and the Fourth Amendment that too often fosters abhorrent “policing for profit” abuse.

Civil asset forfeiture is big business for law enforcers: The Drug Enforcement Administration's 2007-16 cash seizures alone totaled $3.2 billion, according to a March inspector general's report from Mr. Sessions' own Justice Department. He not only wants his feds to ramp up civil asset forfeiture, he has already undone “an Obama administration order that prevented state and local authorities from using the federal system to sidestep restrictive state laws,” NBC News reports.

Thankfully, bipartisan congressional opposition to civil asset forfeiture continues to grow. And among critics of this reprehensible practice and backers of legislation to rein it in are some of Capitol Hill's most conservative lawmakers: Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Mike Lee, R-Utah.

Judges have a role to play: A June ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court requires prosecutors to show that seized property's owners both knew of and consented to illegal activity. But it's legislators — in Washington and in Harrisburg — who must stop civil asset forfeiture.

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