Reforms are necessary to ensure Americans’ Fifth Amendment rights and are part of Labrador’s criminal justice reform agenda
WASHINGTON – (RealEstateRama) — Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, is cosponsoring a bipartisan measure reforming the federal civil asset forfeiture process. H.R. 5283 would boost transparency, accountability and oversight of seizures and forfeitures by law enforcement agencies.
The bill is authored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., and titled the Deterring Undue Enforcement by Protecting Rights of Citizens from Excessive Searches and Seizures Act, or DUE PROCESS Act. Other sponsors include Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Ranking Democrat John Conyers, D-Mich.
The DUE PROCESS Act strengthens protections for claimants opposing forfeiture and establishes strict timelines on the government to commence proceedings. The bill elevates the burden of proof by requiring the government to prove its case through clear and convincing evidence; the current standard is a preponderance of the evidence. The bill also gives federal judges discretion to decrease a forfeiture should it be found disproportionate with the underlying wrongdoing.
“The Fifth Amendment prohibits the government from depriving the people of their property without due process of law,” Labrador said. “This bill levels the playing field and takes an important step to guarantee the rights of property owners. It also ensures citizens have information and assistance to contest government seizures.
“The government would have to prove both a substantial connection between the property and the offense and that the owner of the property intentionally used, knowingly consented, or reasonably should have known the property was being used in connection with a crime. While forfeiture can be an important tool for law enforcement, it also has been abused because of the financial incentive to seize property from Americans without due process,” Labrador added.
Labrador is among the leaders in Congress and on the House Judiciary Committee in advocatingbroad reforms to the criminal justice system.
Key Components of the Due Process Act:
Reforms federal civil asset forfeiture programs
· Enhances procedural protections of forfeiture proceedings in both civil and administrative settings and prevents government overreach
· Increases the government’s burden of proof in civil asset forfeiture cases to help protect innocent victims
Strengthens protections for claimants
· Creates a right to counsel for Americans in all civil asset forfeiture proceedings
· Provides that a claimant may recover attorney’s fees in victorious cases against a government forfeiture
· Speeds up the process for the government to notify the property owner of a seizure
· Expands protections to innocent owners by requiring the government to prove the connection between the property and the offense and that the property was used intentionally in order to seize it
Increases accountability and oversight of seizures and forfeitures
· Requires the Inspector General to conduct a yearly audit on a representative sample of federal civil forfeitures to ensure they are being conducted within the letter and spirit of the law
· Requires the creation of two federal databases on forfeitures in order to make information more readily available to the public, including a catalog of federal forfeitures to assist those whose property has been seized and to provide broad details on the types of forfeiture, agencies involved, and the conduct that lead to forfeited property
A copy of the bill text may be found here.
Dan Popkey – 208-800-1565