WASHINGTON D.C. — Right On Crime supports the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act (FAIR Act) H.R. 1525, a bi-partisan bill which promises to reign in the federal civil asset forfeiture practice which permits the government to seize all manner of property based on mere suspicion of wrongdoing. The FAIR Act represents a valuable first step toward reining in abuses and bringing asset forfeiture to better align with constitutional safeguards.
Right On Crime Executive Director and former U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman says current civil asset procedures go against American’s hard-won liberties enshrined in the U.S. Bill of Rights.
“At present, the government may seize, and ultimately keep, a person’s belongings based on allegations of a connection to criminal activity without ever taking the next logical step of pursuing a criminal charge, much less securing a criminal conviction,” says Tolman. “As a result, innocent citizens have lost their homes, car, and life savings over a mistake or, worse yet, through the malice or indifference of a government official without requiring the government to justify the taking.”
Current practices also create problems for law enforcement and organizations tasked with conducting the forfeitures. Right On Crime supports the bill’s requirement of “clear and convincing evidence.”
Tolman says, “The incredibly low burden of proof and lack of meaningful oversight of the process discourages more intensive investigations into the alleged criminal conduct or nexus to the property in question. In short, a low burden of proof does little to promote thorough police work or protect public safety.
H.R. 1525 The FAIR Act would:
- Eliminate administrative forfeiture, ensuring that only federal courts, not administrative agencies, can order civil forfeitures to the federal government.
- Provide access to counsel for those seeking the return of their property.
- End the profit incentive by sending federal forfeiture funds to the U.S. Treasury.
The legislation was introduced by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) and co-sponsored by Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), and could be considered by the full House before Congress leaves for its August recess. Passed through the House Judiciary Committee, it must still make it through three more U.S. House committees of Energy & Commerce, Ways & Means, and Financial Services.