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*(Via Newsy) – Attorney General Eric Holder made some sweeping changes to a controversial federal program Friday in a move that could curb cops from seizing people’s property without good reason.

The new measures prohibit local and state police from using the Department of Justice’s Asset Forfeiture Program to confiscate the vehicles, valuables, cash or property of anyone suspected of wrongdoing. Property that poses a public safety hazard, like firearms, ammunition, explosives and child pornography, can still be seized under the law.

Civil forfeiture’s become an increasingly controversial issue over the past few years; if you haven’t been following this particular debate, here’s a brief rundown of what civil forfeiture means and why it’s important.

Civil forfeiture as we know it took off during the Reagan administration, when it was seen as a tool to help fight the War on Drugs. The policy gives police federal authority to seize property from anyone suspected of criminal wrongdoing and split the proceeds with the federal government.

Attorney Brian Kabateck told CNN, “The general core of the civil forfeiture law is to capture the cash or ill-gotten gains or contraband that criminals have used to commit a crime.”

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