(UnitedVoice.com) – Almost 40 years ago, Congress passed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984. The legislation was signed by President Ronald Reagan. It established the Asset Forfeiture Program, which allows federal agents and prosecutors to seize someone’s assets if they believe they are the result of illegal activity. However, not everyone who has their property seized is convicted of a crime.
The practice of seizing property is highly profitable for the government. Critics have said it’s unconstitutional. Lawmakers are now looking to pass legislation to reform the law that allows for the forfeiture of Americans’ property.
On March 9, Reps. Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) reintroduced the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act (FAIR Act). Reps. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Joe Neguse (D-CO), Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), and Tom McClintock (R-CA) are co-sponsoring the bill.
The legislation would raise the level of proof the government needs to seize a person’s property. It also increases congressional oversight of the practice to ensure the feds are not violating the rights of Americans. Finally, the bill restructures the IRS statutes in order to protect small business owners.
In a statement, Rep. Walberg said the bill would bring “important reforms to limit government overreach” and to restore the constitutional rights of the American people. He explained that he believes it is “far too easy for the government” to just take a person’s property, sometimes without ever charging the person with a crime.
Rep. McClintock joined the statement, calling the current forfeiture program a “direct contradiction to the basic premise of American justice” because it essentially declares a person guilty first. Rep. Raskin described the practice as the “ lawless seizure” of people’s property.
Hurting Real People
Linda and Reggie Martin stored all of their savings in a deposit box at the US Private Vaults in Beverly Hills, California. In March 2021, the FBI raided the property and seized their $40,200, along with about $86 million in jewelry, gold, and cash, from about 1,400 safe-deposit boxes. The couple was among hundreds of people who weren’t suspected of committing any crimes.
Several of the people sued, and a judgment was issued against the government. The FBI had to return the property to those named in the suit. Unfortunately, the Martins were not party to that lawsuit. They filed a class action suit with the help of the Institute for Justice, the attorneys from the previous case.
The Institute for Justice estimates that from 2017 to 2021, the Department of Justice seized $8 billion worth of property from people in the US.
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