Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Those Suffering Under Civil Asset Forfeiture to Get Relief?

Small business owners who broke no laws deserve protection from an unfair civil asset forfeiture, according to a new bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI-05).

The bill, which Walberg labeled the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act, applies to civil asset forfeitures at the federal level only.

The Arlington, VA-based Institute for Justice (IJ) called civil asset forfeiture “one of the gravest abuses of power in the country today.”

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“Americans threatened with civil forfeiture face an appalling lack of due process that treats property owners worse than criminals,” IJ said.

The Lenawee County, Michigan Daily Telegram reported that federal law enforcement agencies may seize the assets of people or businesses charged with committing certain crimes before they are convicted or even charged. IJ, meanwhile, said nearly all states and the feds “require far less evidence than the ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard for criminal convictions.”

IJ said the feds practice equitable sharing, which permits local and state law enforcement agencies to get around state laws that limit civil forfeiture.

“By collaborating with a federal agency, they can move to forfeit property under federal law and receive up to 80 percent of forfeited proceeds,” IJ said.

“Granting law enforcement a direct financial stake in federal forfeiture litigation encourages profiteering and a lack of respect for federalism and state sovereignty.”

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In recent years, 37 states have reformed their civil asset forfeiture laws, while New Mexico, Nebraska, Maine and North Carolina have abolished the practice altogether, said the Washington, D.C-based Americans for Tax Reform (ATR).

Michigan officials, however, have rolled back civil asset forfeiture reforms “in the name of preventing drug trafficking at airports.”

“The federal government has taken the initiative to reform civil asset forfeiture within their authority,” ATR said.

“This should remind states that have not updated their laws to follow suit and protect their citizens’ property rights.”

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