The Catholic University of America






Professor Clifford Fishman Quoted in Washington Post on Asset Forfeiture Program



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Catholic University law school Professor Clifford Fishman was among the quoted expert sources for a major, multi-part examination by the Washington Post of the Equitable Sharing Program, a federal law that permits the seizure of hundreds of millions of dollars in cash from motorists and others not charged with crimes. Thousands of people have been forced to fight legal battles that can last more than a year to get their money back. The first installment of the story was published on Sept. 7.

According to the Post:
“There have been 61,998 cash seizures made on highways and elsewhere since 9/11 without search warrants or indictments through the Equitable Sharing Program, totaling more than $2.5 billion. State and local authorities kept more than $1.7 billion of that while Justice, Homeland Security and other federal agencies received $800 million. Half of the seizures were below $8,800.”
The extensive three-part series examines both the rationale behind the law and the legality of its real life application in a variety of situations. The newspaper asked Fishman to view videos of traffic stops shot by police cruiser dash cameras. Fishman told the Post that extended stops, in which the officer uses psychological pressure on the driver without charges or Miranda warnings can cross the line.

“Encouraging police to initiate searches for the purpose of seizing cash or other assets, rather than to seize evidence to be used in a prosecution, is a dangerous development,” said Fishman, a former New York City prosecutor. “It is particularly troubling if police officers are trained to manipulate the suspect into forfeiting the assets or waiving the right to contest the search.”
The Post relied on an array of materials to explore the rise of civil seizures in recent years, including Freedom of Information Act requests and Justice Department records.