Due process makes a comeback
The Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to approve Sen. Jeff Sessions as President Trump’s pick for Attorney General. Now, the matter will move to the full Senate, for Sessions’ confirmation vote. As AG, Sessions will serve as a member of Trump’s Cabinet, and will head up the Justice Dept. as the country’s top government lawyer. At the DOJ, Sessions will play a major role in law enforcement.
Sessions on the issue of civil forfeiture
Sessions’ likely appointment as AG is relevant here in light of civil forfeiture and Ohio’s new law, which requires a conviction before assets can be seized by police.
In civil forfeiture, law enforcement seizes the assets of those people suspected of having committed a crime, from tangible cash to cars to bank accounts. The process is often described as controversial, because it involves the seizure of property without the conviction of the person whose property was taken. It’s not hard to argue that civil forfeiture is an example of the failure of due process, from the criminal defense perspective.
Sen. Sessions, however – one of the more conservative of lawmakers in the Senate – has stated that he wouldn’t want any reform to the civil forfeiture laws in this country, as it is a vital law enforcement tool. So vital, in fact, that local police seem to have come to depend on it as a source of revenue.
Ohio comes out swinging in the name of due process
According to a Jan. 4 article in Forbes, Ohio is now requiring an actual conviction before police can take a citizen’s property. The law is House Bill 347, and it was recently signed by Gov. John Kasich. “To forfeit properties valued at under $15,000,” writes contributor Nick Sibilla for Forbes, “the government must first convict the property’s owner in criminal court.”
Due process is making a comeback.