A Fourth Amendment Victory

  • 20 January 2015
  • NormanL
A Fourth Amendment Victory

It's a rare day, indeed, when we will say anything good about Attorney General Eric Holder. But working against type, the AG has done something remarkable: he stood up for the Constitition:

Eric Holder is ordering an end to most of the Department of Justice’s Equitable Sharing Program. This is the program where the DOJ works with local law enforcement agencies for busts, and then the law enforcement agencies are permitted to keep 80 percent of the assets seized. It has been an incubator of the worst police abuses, as some agencies looked for any possible reason to take people’s property without ever actually accusing them with a crime.

We've written about this intrusive, unconstitutional program before. But for a refresher, consider this:

...a Washington Post investigation published in September that found that police have made cash seizures worth almost $2.5 billion from motorists and others without search warrants or indictments since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Post found that local and state police routinely pulled over drivers for minor traffic infractions, pressed them to agree to warrantless searches and seized large amounts of cash without evidence of wrongdoing. The law allows such seizures and forces the owners to prove their property was legally acquired in order to get it back.

Police spent the seizure proceeds with little oversight, in some cases buying luxury cars, high-powered weapons and military-grade gear such as armored cars, according to an analysis of Justice Department data obtained through freedom">freedom">Freedom of Information Act requests.

Why would local police departments do this? Because the federal government created a powerful, financial incentive for them to do so. We have the utmost respect for law enforcement -- but we have an even greater respect for the Fourth Amendment.

Holder's action, while a good first step, is still too limited in scope to prevent further abuses. We will work to see that congress">Congress continues to push forward with legislation that will limit road side seizures. It's sad that anyone would have to do so -- that's why the Fourth Amendment was created in the first place. But that's also why we are here -- ready to fight for the rights guaranteed to us under the constitution">constitution">Constitution.