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Civil Asset Forfeiture: Undue Process and Overdue Reforms

| June 30, 2015

Last Friday, Right on Crime, in partnership with Americans for Tax Reform, held a policy primer in Washington, D.C. titled “Civil Asset Forfeiture: Undue Process and Overdue Reforms,” discussing various aspects of forfeiture practices across the country.

The first panel, called “Undue Process,” included Right on Crime signatory Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, moderator John Malcolm of the Heritage Foundation, Jason Pye of Freedomworks, and Walter Olsen of the Cato Institute. This opening group, over the course of an hour, gave an in-depth discussion of how each of the panelist’s respective organizations became involved in combating asset forfeiture, including those aspects of the program–e.g. burden of proof, profit motive, etc.–each panelist found particularly odious. The panel culminated with a significant Q&A section, taking inquiries from the audience.

Watch the entire first panel below:

The second panel, “Overdue Reforms,” featured Derek Cohen, senior policy analyst for the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Right on Crime, Robert Frommer from the Institute of Justice, and Evan Armstrong, legislative counsel to Rep. Tim Wahlberg (R-MI), who discussed some possible reforms to asset forfeiture, including addressing oversight concerns and perverse profit motives.

Perhaps the most notable panelist, however, was Joseph Rivers, who was a recent victim of asset forfeiture as he was headed to Los Angeles to begin a career in music. Rivers–who lost $16,000 after being questioned by a DEA agent–put a human face on asset forfeiture, and his story serves as a cautionary tale in allowing the practice to continue in the manner it does today.

Watch the entire second panel below:


MICHAEL HAUGEN is a policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation and its Right on Crime initiative.

His work for the Foundation has focused primarily on criminal justice reform topics, particularly civil forfeiture, prison reform and justice reinvestment, mens rea reform, occupational licensing, and various law enforcement and privacy issues. He’s also written about federal corporate subsidies, school choice, and gun rights.

Haugen is a graduate of Eastern Washington University, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with Pre-Medicine Option, and a minor in Chemistry. He also holds an Associate of Arts degree in General Studies from North Idaho College. At EWU, he participated in academic research in a molecular microbiology laboratory for two years, investigating genetic virulence factors and pathophysiology in microbes.

His writing has appeared in National Review, The Hill, Townhall, Washington Examiner, Dallas Morning News, El Paso Times, Trib Talk, RedState, Ricochet, and Breitbart Texas.