IPAC Response to Eric Holder’s Asset Forfeiture

On January 16, 2015, the United States Attorney General issued an order concerning the federal adoption of state asset forfeitures.  The relevant portions of that order are as follows:

Federal adoption of property seized by state or local law enforcement under state law is prohibited, except for property that directly relates to public safety concerns, including firearms, ammunition, explosives, and property associated with child pornography. To the extent that seizures of property other than these four specified categories of property are being considered for federal adoption under this public safety exception, such seizures may not be adopted without the approval of the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division. The prohibition on federal adoption includes, but is not limited to, seizures by state or local law enforcement of vehicles, valuables, and cash, which is defined as currency and currency equivalents, such as postal money orders, personal and cashier’s checks, stored value cards, certificates of deposit, travelers checks, and U.S. savings bonds.

This order does not apply to (1) seizures by state and local authorities working together with federal authorities in a joint task force; (2) seizures by state and local authorities that are the result of joint federal-state investigations or that are coordinated with federal authorities as part of ongoing federal investigations; or (3) seizures pursuant to federal seizure warrants, obtained from federal courts to take custody of assets originally seized under state law. This Order also does not affect the ability of state and local agencies to pursue the forfeiture of assets pursuant to their respective state laws.

It appears that at least for now, seizures of property in narcotics cases that originate with city, county and state law enforcement agencies will not be adopted by the federal government for asset forfeiture.  IPAC has been in contact with, and continues to be in contact with, the Assistant U.S. Attorney who handles forfeitures for the Southern District of Indiana.  To the extent that the exceptions outlined by the Attorney General can be helpful, we will keep you informed.