Washington, DC (January 27, 2015) – This morning, Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the "Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act of 2015" in both the House and the Senate, respectively. The National Association of Criminal Defense lawyers (NACDL) supports this legislation as it would bring much-needed improvements to federal civil asset forfeiture laws. As explained in NACDL President Theodore Simon's letter to Members of Congress, "Under current law, the government can confiscate money and property of individuals and businesses without convicting, or even charging, that person or entity with committing a crime."
The FAIR ACT of 2015 would, among other things:
- raise the level of proof required to seize property to the more reasonable standard of "clear and convincing evidence," which would help protect property owners;
- provide indigent property owners with appointed counsel;
- require the government to prove that an owner was aware that property was being used in criminal activity—an important legal requirement that would help ensure that money and property is not mistakenly or unfairly seized;
- eliminate an agency profit incentive by prohibiting the Justice Department from retaining assets seized through civil forfeiture for their own use and instead would mandate that the proceeds of forfeiture go to the Treasury's General Fund, where Congress can appropriate the money for any purpose; and
- abolish the federal "equitable-sharing" program that allows state and local law enforcement to do an end-run around state laws and allows them to profit from civil forfeitures in situations where normally they could not.
NACDL President Theodore Simon wrote in his letter to every Member of Congress: "We can no longer ignore the conflicts of interest and policy problems that arise when law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies reap financial bounty from the forfeiture decisions they make. Decisions regarding whose property to seize, and how to deal with citizens whose property has been seized, are too often dictated by the profit the agencies stand to realize from the seizures. State and local law enforcement agencies frequently work with federal agencies on forfeiture cases and share the proceeds of the forfeiture. This procedure thwarts state laws and violates federalism principles. The federal government's participation in this preemption of state priorities should be eliminated by Congress. NACDL urges you to support the commonsense improvements contained in the FAIR Act."
To learn more about NACDL's work in the area of forfeiture reform, visit www.nacdl.org/forfeiture.
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The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.