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2017-06-15 / Front Page

OST Law Enforcement To Implement Controversial Policy

BY BRANDON ECOFFEY
LCT EDITOR

PINE RIDGE -- The Oglala Sioux Tribe has announced that it will now implement a policy of actively pursuing asset forfeiture in instances involving illegal drugs.

Over the course of the last two years drug crime and violence associated with it has spiked all across the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation with the arrival of meth. In an attempt to curb this recent trend the Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety announced last week that it would now be pursuing the forfeiture of “any personal property constituting, or derived from proceeds obtained, directly or indirectly,” from actions that violate the tribes criminal code including items “used to transport, conceal, manufacture, cultivate, or distribute a controlled or counterfeit substance.”

The idea behind asset forfeiture laws is that they are supposed to hit criminals in the pocket book, essentially disrupting their activities and providing a deterrent for future crimes.

“The Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program encompasses the seizure and forfeiture of assets that represent the proceeds of, or were used to facilitate federal crimes. The primary mission of the Program is to employ asset forfeiture powers in a manner that enhances public safety and security,” write the Department of Justice. “This is accomplished by removing the proceeds of crime and other assets relied upon by criminals and their associates to perpetuate their criminal activity against our society. Asset forfeiture has the power to disrupt or dismantle criminal organizations that would continue to function if we only convicted and incarcerated specific individuals.”

This practice has become controversial, however, as evidence has surfaced showing that their is an incentive for law enforcement to abuse the law as the potential for profit is abundant.

The ACLU has spoken out against asset forfeiture as federal law does not require a person to be convicted of a crime prior to having their property seized.

“The ACLU believes that all civil forfeiture schemes inherently violate fundamental constitutional rights, including the right not to be deprived of property without due process of law and the right to be free from punishment that is disproportionate to the offense,” stated the ACLU in congressional testimony. “Government authorities must simply satisfy a requirement of probable cause that the property was used in an illicit activity or was purchased with funds from illicit activity in order to subject the property to forfeiture. As a result, civil forfeiture constitutes a dangerous, collateral weapon for law enforcement agencies where criminal convictions are more difficult to come by,” they added.

The OST law does not indicate if probable cause is the standard to be met for a asset seizure r if a conviction is required prior to taking the property in question.

Both Donald Trump, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the National Sheriff’s Association, however, have fully supported efforts to continue the use of asset forfeitures to combat drug trafficking.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at editor@lakotacountrytimes.com)

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