Saturday, May 25, 2024
Photo courtesy of Facebook

Rand Paul Bill to Fix Civil Asset Forfeiture Abuses

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has reintroduced a bill that would clamp down on civil asset forfeiture abuses.

If enacted into law, the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act would protect the rights of property owners and restore the Fifth Amendment’s role in civil forfeiture proceedings. Government agencies would no longer profit from taking people’s property without due process.

Specifically, the FAIR Act would do the following:

• Eliminate an Equitable Sharing program that allows state law enforcement officers to turn seized property over to federal officials for forfeiture — and get up to 80 percent of the proceeds of the forfeited property.

RELATED: Supreme Court to Hear New Jersey Fishermen Vs. Feds

• Restore the principle of innocent until proven guilty. Under current law, federal law enforcement agencies may take property suspected of involvement in crime without charging the property owner with a crime. The FAIR Act would place on the government the burden to show that a property owner consented to his property being used in a crime by a third party or that the property owner was willfully blind to the criminal activity.

• Require clear and convincing evidence. Under current law, the government need only prove by a preponderance of the evidence that a defendant’s property was used for an illegal purpose to forfeit the property. 

• Protect the right to counsel. Under current law, property owners can receive appointed counsel due to indigency only if they request it, and their home has been seized. 

• Remove the profit incentive. The proceeds of forfeiture would go to a treasury’s general fund, where Congress can appropriate the money for any purpose. 

IN THE NEWS: July 4: When Will America Declare a Declaration of Dependence?

• Reform IRS seizures. The FAIR Act would require that the IRS prove the defendant knowingly deposited funds with criminal intent before they can seize the property. The act would also require a probable cause hearing no later than 14 days after the IRS seizes funds. 

In the House, bill sponsors are U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI).

Walberg cited “a wave of stories where the government seized property from innocent Americans without charging them with a crime.”

Send story tips and other story suggestions to [email protected]