Michigan Libertarian rep introduces bill to end civil asset forfeiture

Michigan Libertarian rep introduces bill to end civil asset forfeiture

https://www.foxnews.com/us/amash-bill-end-civil-asset-forfeiture

A Michigan congressman introduced a bill Thursday to end civil asset forfeiture, which allows police to seize a person’s property on the suspicion that it was used in a crime. 

“Civil asset forfeiture is a due process violation, and it always has been,” Rep. Justin Amash, L-Mich., said Thursday. “Its history is riddled with injustices not because it’s a valid practice that gets misused, but because its central premise—denying people their procedural rights—is inherently flawed.”

Police counter that they need civil asset forfeiture to fight criminal organizations, but often the people who have their property seized are never charged with a crime. 

DESPITE PROMISES TO CUT BACK, FED AND STATE GOVERNMENT PRESS ASSET FORFEITURES

The Greenville News examined civil asset forfeiture cases in South Carolina and found that a fifth of the 4,000 people who had property seized never were charged with a crime, and another fifth were charged but never convicted. 

Nationwide, $68.8 billion was seized from Americans over the last 20 years, according to an Institute for Justice report released this month. 

Large criminal enterprises and drug kingpins typically are not targeted in these cases; the institute found that the average currency forfeiture is just $1,276. 

Since hiring an attorney to contest the forfeiture can be expensive, people who had property seized only sought its return in 22% of cases. 

SEN. PAUL, SCOTT BULLOCK: CIVIL FORFEITURE HAS RUINED COUNTLESS LIVES

In one 2016 case, the tour manager for a Burmese Christian musical act had $53,000 of concert proceeds seized during a routine traffic stop in Oklahoma. The money was for Christian refugees and Thai orphans. Muskogee County District Attorney Orvil Loge told the Washington Post that he dropped the case after negative press coverage and calls from “a lot of citizens” who were upset about the case. 

In 2017, Tennessee police officers seized a disabled Vietnam veteran’s BMW because his son was accused of driving the car to the site of drug deals. The American Civil Liberties Union took up his defense and eventually got the property back. 

“I took an oath to defend our Constitution when I served in the military,” the veteran told ACLU. “I have the highest respect for law enforcement, but the Fourth Amendment has to mean something. Police officers can’t just take people’s property for no reason.”

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Civil asset forfeiture is illegal in three states, and 11 more require a criminal conviction to seize a person’s property, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Amash said he hopes to make the practice illegal nationwide. 

“By ending [civil asset forfeiture], my bill helps fulfill Congress’ obligation to stop rights violations at both the state and federal level, and it ends a practice that contributes to the frayed relationship between law enforcement and the public,” Amash said Thursday. 

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