As Senator, Joe Biden Pioneered Unconstitutional Civil Asset Forfeiture Targeting Minorities
Presidential contender Joe Biden is trying to make himself seem palatable for the radical socialist base of the Democratic Party to be its nominee to take on Trump in 2020, but his record – including blazing the trail for civil asset forfeiture nationally – is proving quite problematic.
Then-Senator Joe Biden introduced the Comprehensive Forfeiture Act in 1983 to give federal agents sweeping new powers to seize assets from private citizens before they were convicted of a crime.
The following year, the 1984 Comprehensive Crime Control Act supported by Biden got state and local law enforcement into the unconstitutional mix by creating the “equitable sharing” program to give them up to 80 percent of the moneys from assets seized by the feds, to further facilitate the practice across the nation.
These Biden-backed laws were an egregious assault on the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution by taking a suspect’s property without the due process of law. Biden’s tough-on-crime posturing has resulted in some of the most heinous abuses in U.S. history, with minorities often being the target.
One such example of a racially-biased abuse was toward Shukree Simmons, an African-American, who had $3,700 seized from him from a car sale after he was pulled over despite police finding no evidence of a crime. Ella Bromell, a 72-year-old African-American widow, had her home seized because drug dealers she did not know committed a crime near her lawn.
Reformers on the Left and the Right despise civil asset forfeiture, and have been fighting to end the practice for decades.
“When the government can transfer property from citizens to the state without proving wrongdoing, there is clearly something wrong,” said Jarrett Skorup, a policy analyst with the conservative Mackinac Center in Michigan. “The foundation of good government is private property rights and the rule of law — civil forfeiture violates both of these.”
“The state should not be able to forfeit property unless it has convicted someone of a crime,” said Dan Korobkin, deputy legal director with the ACLU of Michigan. “This process is an end-run around the U.S. Constitution and legislators should reform the process.”
“Letting law enforcement agencies keep what they seize creates a powerful incentive to pursue profit instead of public safety,” said Lee McGrath, senior legislative counsel at the libertarian-leaning Institute for Justice. “Free from legislative oversight, civil forfeiture demonstrates the dangers of letting the same agencies hold both the purse and the sword.”
Biden’s legacy, which includes support for the Iraq war, support of Wall Street deregulation, and support for a “three strikes” criminal justice bill that contributed greatly to mass incarceration in addition to being a civil asset forfeiture trailblazer, are making it difficult for the career politician to appeal to the radical Left on the rise in the Democratic fold.