At least one U.S. senator is hoping to raise the evidence threshold federal law enforcement officers would have to meet in order to seize property from American citizens.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in July introduced the FAIR Act — for Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration — which would force federal law enforcement officers to prove “a clear and convincing” tie to criminal activity before they would be allowed to seize property from the public.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announced legislation in July that would increase the evidence threshold government agents would have to prove before they could seize civil assets such as homes or businesses. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
"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 told TheBlaze.
If enacted, the legislation would protect the rights of property owners when government agencies attempt to seize their property. State law enforcement agencies would still abide by state law when forfeiting seized property, but the law would remove the "profit incentive for forfeiture" by redirecting forfeitures assets from the Justice Department's asset forfeiture fund to the Treasury general fund instead.
“My bill … 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, ” Paul said.
But Paul doesn't have much hope of success — for now.
“We have to look to the next Congress and hope to jump-start a debate on a range of these issues concerning the tools the criminal justice system uses,” a Paul aide told TheBlaze. “I wish Congress would debate this issue … the Senate has been all politics this year there’s no opportunity to real debate on any piece of legislation that really matters to the American people, and that’s the problem."
He continued, “Congress isn’t tackling the issues that are really important to the people like civil asset forfeiture, why isn’t that worthy of a debate? You’ll have to ask the leaders of both parties.”
The aide said Paul believes pushing for civil property forfeiture changes – as well as major changes to other sections of the criminal justice system -- is hugely important for reducing the impact the federal system has upon individual citizens.
“The big picture problem is you have incentives for localities and the federal government to seize assets, and in the end if somebody is found not guilty, they have a hard time undoing that and getting their property back,” the aide said.
“You’ve got a situation where the federal government is overreaching … Senator Paul has a solution to it and he’s hoping Congress will take a run at this, unlikely this year, but hopefully we’ll have a brand new Congress coming in in a few weeks.”
TheBlaze TV's For the Record examined civil asset forfeiture in Wednesday's episode, "Seized," revealing three stories of small-business owners who were targeted by federal forces for hundreds of thousands of dollars without being charged with any crimes.
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