Tags: Rand Paul | Tim Walberg | DOJ | asset forefeiture

Asset Seizure Sans Proof Draws Ire of Sen. Paul, Rep. Walberg

Image: Asset Seizure Sans Proof Draws Ire of Sen. Paul, Rep. Walberg
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters/Landov; MCT/Landov)

By    |   Tuesday, 17 Feb 2015 02:46 PM

Without convicting you of any crime, or even charging you, the government can seize your home, car or other personal property on the mere suspicion that you are involved in criminal activity.

Termed "civil forfeiture," the practice has allowed law enforcement agencies to seize personal property 55,000 times at a total value of $3 billion since 2008, the Daily Signal reports.

Now, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., hope to stop it.

Following notice by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that the federal government will suspend and review civil asset forfeiture, Paul and Walberg are co-sponsoring the FAIR Act, or Fifth Amendment Restoration Act, to stop the DOJ from including forfeited assets in its own budget, instead placing the funds into the general budget, Main Street reports.

The act also would raise the required level of proof of criminal activity, forcing the government to show the "preponderance of the evidence" at a hearing within 14 days of seizure, and tighten guidelines for Internal Revenue Service (IRS) seizures to include demonstrating intent and that the funds involved come from an illegitimate source.

The bill has non-partisan support, as evidenced by the presence of Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Cal., Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Rep. Scott Garret, R-NJ, at the press conference announcing the bill, which also has the support of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Institute for Justice and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Walberg noted in a statement.

Walberg told the Daily Signal: "The president, I think he could coincide with us on this."

He added: "Law enforcement may want to have a Dodge Viper to use in parades but this is not the way to get it."

Paul said at the press conference, "we've turned justice on its head. Basically you're not innocent until you're proven guilty. Under civil forfeiture, you're guilty until you're proven innocent. What is most galling about this is the government can take your stuff without ever charging you or without ever convicting you. That is not America in my point of view," Main Street reported.

Walberg commented in a statement: "America was founded on the principles of due process and property rights. These principles must be defended, not undermined by a system that allows the government to seize an individual’s private property without filing criminal charges."

Walberg proposed legislation reforming asset forfeiture last year which did not pass. He noted in a piece he wrote for The Washington Post then that the federal government, through the process of "equitable sharing," enables local police to skirt state laws restricting asset forfeiture.

He noted that police budgets received $600 million in 2013 through equitable-sharing agreements, and added, "with the size of the federal Asset Forfeiture Fund exceeding $2 billion in 2013, civil forfeiture is big business for the government.

"We should not accept a system in which Americans must live in fear that their property could be seized by those whose chief mission should be to serve and protect," Walberg wrote.

Watch the video here.

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Without convicting you of any crime, or even charging you, the government can seize your home, car or other personal property on the mere suspicion that you are involved in criminal activity.
Rand Paul, Tim Walberg, DOJ, asset forefeiture
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2015-46-17
Tuesday, 17 Feb 2015 02:46 PM
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