WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday announced sweeping changes to a federal civil asset forfeiture program that local law enforcement agencies have been able to use to seize property.
The asset forfeiture practice has been criticized, including by civil liberties groups and members of Congress, because it enables law enforcement to seize possessions — such as cars and money — without an indictment or evidence that a crime has occurred.
Under new rules announced Friday, federal agencies will no longer be able to accept or "adopt" assets seized by local and state law enforcement agencies — unless the property includes firearms, ammunitions, explosives, child pornography or other materials concerning public safety. Holder described the new policy as the "first step in a comprehensive review."
The new policy does not affect asset seizures made under joint state and federal operations, and local law enforcement may still seize property under state laws.