There are more things wrong with asset forfeiture than not. Browse the library on the topic if that’s not clear. But one of the most significant issues is the incentive to abuse it to pad the coffers. The more assets you seize the greater your cut. And then there’s this dirtbag.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance spent nearly $250,000 over the past five years from a state asset forfeiture fund on fine dining, first-class airfare, and luxurious hotels, according to public records obtained by The City, a nonprofit news outlet in New York City.
Vance claims they are all legitimate and within the rules.
Vance defended the spending in statements to The City, saying they were within the rules and involved travel to important policing and counter-terrorism conferences. Vance’s office has also spent $38 million in forfeiture funds to help local prosecutors across the country test rape kits.
But the report highlights one of the chief criticisms of asset forfeiture: The loose rules and lax oversight over how those funds are used.
I think someone needs to take a look at the rules.
Expense reports show that in the last fiscal year alone, Vance visited Washington nine times, Aspen and London twice, and Paris and Los Angeles once apiece.
While in Paris, he spent four nights at Hôtel d’Aubusson, paying $2,816. The five-star hotel “is housed in a true Parisian mansion dating back to 1634” and boasts “discrete luxury, Louis XV furniture, original Aubusson tapestries and a wonderful wood burning fireplace,” according to a description posted on TripAdvisor.
We Need New Rules
“Arresting” and liquidating certain property under asset forfeiture laws was recently identified by the US Supreme Court as unconstitutional. They ruled that the 8th amendment’s prohibition against excessive fines is an incorporated protection applicable to states. And while that’s all well and good, it still doesn’t relieve owners of confiscated property from the burden of having to take ambitious enforcement agencies to court.
Without penalties for abuse of forfeiture law, we shouldn’t expect a lot to change. But local District Attorney’s living the international criminal lifestyle off the seized assets of others might move that process along.