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U.S. Justice Department: Innocent Need Not Fear Forfeiture


March 1993

Responding to a torrent of criticism and Congressional hearings critical of the way in which asset forfeiture programs have been employed by federal and local officials, a U.S. Justice Department attorney accused columnist Jack Anderson of being unfair in his February 4 column on forfeiture abuses (Cary H. Copeland, "Asset Forfeiture -- A Powerful Weapon," [Letters to the Editor], Washington Post, 2/17/93, A18).

Copeland said that forfeiture laws were being applied judiciously, and that the innocent need not worry about having property seized unless they accept it as a gift from a drug dealer or, in the case of titled property, fail to have the title transferred into their names. The latter was a reference to the seizure of an automobile discussed in the Anderson column. Forfeiture is fully constitutional, and allowing state and local law enforcement to keep seized assets to benefit their own departments is not a conflict of interest, Copeland said.