Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is looking to defend the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution not just from the Obama administration, but from states that are finding it too easy to seize private property without first charging and convicting property owners.
Paul says he introduced his Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act because governments at all levels are ignoring the simple protection it is supposed to be providing for all Americans.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has proposed legislation to defend the Fifth Amendment from what he says is an overreach of the federal and state governments. (AP Photo/Molly Riley, File)
The Fifth Amendment is perhaps most commonly known as the provision in the Bill of Rights that allows people to avoid self-incrimination — an option used by former IRS employee Lois Lerner. But the amendment also says people cannot be "deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
Paul said that protection is being eroded by the federal government and state governments, which are finding an incentive to seize property and even profit from those seizures.
"The federal government has made it far too easy for government agencies to take and profit from the property of those who have not been convicted of a crime," Paul said Thursday. "The FAIR Act will ensure that government agencies no longer profit from taking the property of U.S. citizens without due process, while maintaining the ability of courts to order the surrender of proceeds of crime."
His bill would require the federal and state governments to prove their case against people with solid evidence before seizing property, and would force states to abide by state laws on the taking of property. Paul said state agencies often ignore state regulations, and rely on federal takings laws.
The bill would also ensure that any money the federal government receives in trade for the property it seizes goes to the general treasury, and does not stay with the Department of Justice.
Paul has said for the last few years that the Obama administration has indicated a willingness to violate the Fifth Amendment, by arguing it can legally kill Americans with drones. Paul said that is a violation because it would deprive people of life and liberty without due cause.
"So it should trouble every American," Paul said in 2013. "It's not good enough for the President to say, 'I don't intend to assassinate Americans unless it's convenient.' "
David Barron wrote the memo authorizing the killed of two Americans, and President Barack Obama later nominated Barron to be a judge on the First Circuit Court of Appeals. Earlier this year, Paul said that nomination is troubling because it raises the question of whether the Obama administration "believes we have a Fifth Amendment."