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Rand Paul Introduces Effort to Halt Unreasonable Property Seizures

Thursday, March 30, 2017 14:16
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(Before It's News)

 A potentially groundbreaking justice reform has been submitted in Congress, which could dramatically change how law enforcement and prosecutors treat the rights of those they accuse.

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Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) recently introduced legislation to overhaul the Department of Justice’s civil asset forfeiture capabilities. Paul introduced the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act (FAIR) with Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) as an effort to reign in the DOJ’s abuse of the practice. For those unfamiliar with the process, civil asset forfeiture is different from criminal asset forfeiture in that it doesn’t require the conviction of a criminal act. The federal government collected a total of $4.5 billion via civil asset forfeiture procedures in 2014 alone.

The legislation focuses reform efforts on five areas in which the DOJ has been said to abuse the process, including its use of collected funds and collaboration with local and state law enforcement. First, the legislation redirects funds garnished via civil asset forfeiture from the stewardship with the DOJ, and instead puts them into the Treasury’s General Fund. Secondly, the legislation puts an end to the practice of DOJ sharing funds with local and state law enforcement agencies, known as “equitable sharing.”

The reform-minded legislation does more than enact financially responsible restrictions on the DOJ; It also provides greater protection for individuals under the law.

FAIR aims to also reign in unwarranted searches and seizures. The practice of civil asset forfeiture confiscates cash, houses, cars, and more of individuals before a trial is held, and even before an action is brought against a defendant. Sometimes such forfeiture occurs on the sides of road when the subjects aren’t permitted their right to a lawyer. Individuals are often small business owners, and are put into a financial hole when victimized by authoritarian civil asset forfeiture practices.

The federal government has increasingly come under fire in recent years for its cases that abuse civil asset forfeiture, including one such case in North Carolina. Greensboro businessman Roderick Jessup was the subject of abusive civil asset forfeiture tactics in 2015 when the government took nearly $5 million, 40 vehicles, and property from his company. Jessup was the owner of the now-dissolved Gate City Transportation, a company that transported terminally ill patients to medical facilities for treatment. A federal judge told Jessup in August of 2016 that he would most likely not get his assets returned to him.

“For too long, tens of thousands of Americans have lost their hard-earned savings, cars, businesses, and even their homes to an unjust civil forfeiture system,” said Scott Bullock, president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm that fights civil forfeiture nationwide. “The FAIR Act is a bold effort that would enact many urgently needed reforms and end many of the appalling practices endemic to current law.”

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