Leading members of the House and Senate judiciary committees called on the Justice Department on Friday to cut off the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars of proceeds from seized property to police departments around the country.
The congressmen said in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that the Justice Department should stop distributing funds from its “equitable sharing” program, which pools money seized under asset forfeiture laws and shares it with law enforcement agencies across the country.
“We believe that in many circumstances, civil asset forfeiture is a valuable tool in combating serious wrongdoing,” the lawmakers wrote. “However, we have concerns that the government is not using the process fairly and instead is infringing on the rights of small business owners and motorists, some of whom are our constituents.”
Friday’s letter was signed by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, House Judiciary member Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.
Under civil asset forfeiture laws, police can seize property—cash, cars, guns, houses—suspected of being connected to criminal activity. The practice is intended to disrupt organized crime, especially drug trafficking.