The federal government is trying to deter California from reforming its laws governing how police can seize cash and property.
The reforms to the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws could mean the loss of millions of dollars from a program run by the federal government.
Documents obtained by the Institute for Justice show that the California District Attorneys Association has been circulating emails from the Justice and Treasury Departments confirming that the current reforms proposed to California’s civil asset forfeiture laws would make the state ineligible to receive millions of dollars through the federal government’s Equitable Sharing Program.
“This is a desperate and cynical attempt to derail civil forfeiture reform in California,” Lee McGrath, the Institute for Justice’s legislative counsel, said in a statement. “Discussions of dollars and cents have no place in the debate about criminal justice reform, nor do ‘desire’ or technical incapability on the part of the federal government.”
The Equitable Sharing Program allows law enforcement to circumvent state forfeiture laws when conducting seizures of property and money. Participating state and local agencies partner with the federal government, and law enforcement agencies keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds from property and money seized.
Last year, California law enforcement agencies received more than $89.6 million through the federal government’s Equitable Sharing Program.
In an email to Lee Carter, Santa Barbara’s senior deputy district attorney, Melissa Nasrah, legal counsel for the Treasury Executive Office for Asset Forfeiture, expressed concern about the proposed reforms to California’s civil asset forfeiture laws.