Justice. Not Just-Us.

Our criminal justice system is rigged. A never ending federal drug war puts millions of Americans behind bars - with no effect on drug overdoses and crime. Prosecutors, judges, and police are protected from the accountability faced by citizens. The federal courts are so expensive and powerful that no citizen stands a chance. Unrigging our criminal justice system means ending the federal drug war, enabling citizens to hold government officials accountable, and bringing fairness back to the federal courts.

End the Federal Drug War

The federal drug war is one of the greatest failures of our time. It’s time to end it. 

Since 1971, the war on drugs has locked up millions of Americans, especially those from black and latino neighborhoods and communities, with little to no impact on drug use. The federal government has been a prime driver of this war, funding billions into drug enforcement every year, encouraging the use of military equipment, and maintaining barriers to legalization and decriminalization. It’s time to end the federal drug war, start treating drugs as a medical problem instead of a criminal problem, and start to undo the damage this war caused.

Ending the federal drug war means ending Department of Justice enforcement on Day 1, restoring some of the lives destroyed by our War on Drugs, and a one-time redirect of federal drug war funding to rehabilitation over the next 20 years:

  • End Federal Enforcement of the Drug War - The war on drugs is a failure and must end. I will immediately order the Department of Justice to stop enforcing the federal drug war and stop pursuing all drug investigations, cases, and sentencing. Then, I will work with the attorney general, our international partners, and Congress to deschedule all drugs from the Controlled Substances Act. 
  • Undo the Damage of the Drug War - Ending the drug war isn’t enough. We also need to fix some of the damage done. I will pardon or commute the sentences of anyone federally convicted of any nonviolent drug offenses. Then, I will work with Congress to expand expungement to include all nonviolent drug offenses by supporting the REDEEM Act. Finally, we will encourage governors to adopt similar policies with regards to state enforcement. 
  • End Federal Drug War Funding and Redirect to Rehabilitation - Finally, we will shift as a nation from treating the drug war as a criminal problem to treating it as a medical problem, by directing the federal control budget of $41 billion to support state, local, and nonprofit SAMHSA block grants for rehabilitation, moving our nation’s priority from interdiction and punishment to rehabilitation and recovery.

End Qualified Immunity

Prosecutors, judges, and police can’t be held accountable when they break the law. We need to end the practice of Qualified Immunity and make our criminal justice system accountable to the people it serves. 

We are all supposed to be equal in the eyes of the law. The judge-created doctrine of qualified immunity, however, ensures that prosecutors, judges, and police officers who violate a person’s rights can’t be held accountable for it. 

This doctrine requires that to be held accountable for violating a citizen's rights, a government official must have committed an act that someone else, in the same circumstances, and with the same result, had been held accountable for. This is an impossibly high standard that ensures that prosecutors, judges, and police can get away with violating your rights if they are creative, and is used in thousands of civil cases each year to avoid accountability. 

Unrigging the criminal justice system means ensuring that all government officials can be held accountable for violating the law:

  • Pass the End Qualified Immunity Act - I will urge Congress to pass the End Qualified Immunity Act to eliminate this judge-created doctrine and ensure prosecutors, judges, and police officers can be held accountable for their actions.

Bring Fairness Back to Federal Courts

The federal government has rigged the federal court system to take advantage of anyone caught in it. Court costs, overcharging, and the corrupt practice of civil asset forfeiture ensure innocent people and businesses can’t defend themselves. We must ensure everyone has a fair chance at justice. 

It is nearly impossible to win against the federal government in court. Despite filing over 50,000 criminal cases per year, over 98% of those charged take plea deals rather than face the system. Federal prosecutors are able to pile on hundreds of years of charges, with the weight of those charges encouraging even innocent defendants not to go to court. The corrupt practice of civil asset forfeiture requires the citizen to prove that their property wasn’t used in a crime in order to get it back. 

Leveling the federal playing field requires ending civil asset forfeiture, ending the corrupt practice of plea deals, and introducing treble damages to hold prosecutors accountable. 

  • End Civil Asset Forfeiture - I will order the Department of Justice and Internal Revenue Service to cease all Civil Asset Forfeiture cases immediately, return any seized property to their owners, and require them to file criminal cases against those responsible where they have probable cause, restoring the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.” 
  • End Federal Overcharging - Overcharging is the process of piling federal charges on a defendant until the risk is too high for them to go to court, and then offering a plea deal for a lesser amount if they don’t go to court. We will end Federal overcharging by requiring a prosecutor to take the initial charges to court - encouraging proper charging by prosecutors and reducing the penalty for an innocent person to defend their innocence in federal court. 
  • Hold Prosecutors Accountable - Finally, we will hold prosecutors accountable. If a federal prosecutor goes after an innocent person, their office will pay 2x the attorneys fees of the person they prosecuted - ensuring only the highest value cases get prosecuted and innocents are able to defend themselves - even against the federal government.