Congress Can Still Do the Right Thing on Civil Asset Forfeiture
Article from For Liberty by Norm Leahy.
Congressional efforts to reform policing have run into the usual logjams and partisan traps. But at least one item that should be supported on both sides of the aisle still has a chance of passage: reforming civil asset forfeiture.
Civil asset forfeiture is a process under which law enforcement can seize property suspected of being used in criminal activity without charging the owners with an actual crime. Reformers say the process is fundamentally broken. A bill in Congress called the FAIR Act seeks to curb the abuses:
According to bill co-sponsor Rep. Tim Walberg, the measure would:
- *Raise the level of proof necessary for the government to seize property
- *Restore the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” by placing the burden on the government to prove a property owner had knowledge of criminal activity Increase transparency of civil forfeiture proceeds by requiring more vigorous reporting by the DOJ
- *Eliminates equitable sharing
- *Requires all forfeiture funds to flow to the general treasury rather than the unaccountable Asset Forfeiture Fund
- *Reforms the I.R.S. structuring statute to protect innocent business owners from seizure
- *Grants counsel to individuals defending against civil asset forfeiture
Reform is hardly a new issue. Walberg and Sen. Rand Paul were pushing a version of the FAIR Act back in 2015. What they said then still applies today:
The FAIR Act will ensure that federal government agencies, like the IRS and Department of Justice, no longer profit from taking the property of U.S. citizens without due process, while maintaining the ability of courts to order the surrender of proceeds of crime.
The FAIR Act intends to tilt the playing field back in favor of due process and property rights.