Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform

Although criminal forfeiture has been an important tool for law enforcement, civil asset forfeiture has been used to seize forfeit and profit off property that may or may not be tied to criminal activity.  We must maintain vigilance and oversight over the federal civil asset forfeiture program because it is too ripe for abuse. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, civil asset net forfeitures surged to $4.2 billion in 2012 which was up from $1.7 billion in the preceding year—a one-year increase of over 150%. The proceeds have grown rapidly—in 1986 the federal Asset Forfeiture Fund took in $93.7 million; by September 2013 the Fund held more than $2 billion in net assets. Additional safeguards must be implemented to ensure innocent property owners do not have property seized and forfeited without due process. 

To help curb actual and potential abuses and restore the balance of power back to individual citizens, Senator Rand Paul and I introduced the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act of 2015.  Officially H.R. 540 in the House of Representatives, this legislation would: 
  • Raise the level of proof necessary for the government to seize property
  • Restore the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” by placing the burden on the government to prove a property owner had knowledge of criminal activity
  • Increase transparency of civil forfeiture proceeds by requiring more vigorous reporting by the DOJ
  • Eliminates equitable sharing
  • Requires all forfeiture funds to flow to the general treasury rather than the unaccountable Asset Forfeiture Fund
  • Reforms the I.R.S. structuring statute to protect innocent business owners from seizure
  • Grants counsel to individuals defending against civil asset forfeiture

The FAIR Act has been endorsed by the Institute for Justice, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the ACLU showing the wide ideological spectrum that supports reform. Civil asset forfeiture reform is also supported by groups like the Heritage Foundation and the CATO Institute.

Legislative Actions

5/25/2016 - Walberg-Backed Asset Forfeiture Legislation Advances Through Judiciary Committee
5/19/2016 - 
Walberg Applauds Judiciary Committee Legislation Incorporating His Civil Asset Forfeiture Reforms
4/30/2015 - 
Leading small business, taxpayer organizations endorse the FAIR Act
4/15/2015 - Paul, Walberg applaud Grassley for highlighting civil asset forfeiture abuse
3/31/2015 - Rep.Walberg responds to DOJ’s new civil asset forfeiture restrictions
- Rep. Walberg introduced the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act of 2015
1/26/2015 - Rep. Walberg sends letter to Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Leahy regarding civil asset forfeiture
7/28/2014 - Rep. Walberg introduced H.R. 5212, the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2014, in the 113th Congress
6/2/2014 - Rep. Walberg colloquy during H.R. 4660 CJS Amendment Debate


6/5/2015 - Lansing State Journal | Rep. Tim Walberg and Rep. Kevin Cotter: Innocent until proven guilty? Not quite
1/30/2015 - | Sen. Paul and Rep. Walberg: How feds can legally steal your money
9/4/2014 -  Washington Post | Rep. Walberg: Stopping the abuse of civil forfeiture
4/30/2014 – Washington Post | George Will: The heavy hand of the IRS


12/01/2016 - Walberg Questions DOJ, DEA Officials on Asset Forfeiture Abuse
Walberg talks civil asset forfeiture, criminal justice reform at an Oversight Committee hearing
6/25/2015 - Walberg testifies before the Judiciary Committee about the FAIR Act
1/27/2015Walberg & Sen. Paul along with Reps. Ellison, Cardenas and Garrett introduce the FAIR Act
9/10/2014 - Walberg spoke on the House floor about Terry Dehko, whose property was unlawfully seized by the IRS
7/29/2014Walberg joins a Heritage Foundation panel to discuss civil asset forfeiture reform

Related News:

05/22/2016 - Adrian Daily Telegram | Our View: End property seizure without actual proof
05/21/2016 - Hillsdale Daily News | Congress takes action to reform civil asset forfeiture laws
04/29/2016 - The Oklahoman | Oklahoma governor signs civil asset forfeiture law
04/24/2016 - Washington Post | How police took $53,000 from a Christian band, an orphanage and a church
04/22/2016 - Daily Signal | Nebraska Abolishes Civil Forfeiture
04/01/2016 - Huffington Post | Florida Just Made It Harder For Police To Take People’s Stuff
03/28/2016 - Washington Post | The feds have resumed a controversial program that lets cops take stuff and keep it
02/01/2016 - Daily Signal | New Maryland Reform Makes It Harder for Police to Unjustly Seize Property
01/05/2016 - Washington Times | Reining in unjust ‘policing for profit’
11/10/2015 - Washington Post | New report: In tough times, police start seizing a lot more stuff from people
10/21/2015 - MLive | Snyder signs Michigan civil asset forfeiture laws requiring more transparency, evidence
10/07/2015 - Fox 17 | Civil asset forfeiture reform bills pass unanimously, headed to governor’s desk
10/06/2015 - Livingston Daily News | Report: Outlaw Michigan’s civil forfeiture law
09/15/2015 - Cincinnati Enquirer | Editorial: Reform police asset seizure program
07/31/2015 - Daily Caller | Michigan Police Endorse Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform
07/28/2015 - Cato Institute | Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform in Congress
07/16/2015 - Detroit News | Police grabs of civilian cash stir legislative revolt
07/15/2015 - Wall Street Journal | The IRS’s Ill-Gotten Gains
07/08/2015 - Michigan Radio | Bipartisan coalition pushing back against civil asset forfeiture
07/08/2015 - Daily Signal | 3 Reasons Stopping Police From Wrongly Seizing Americans’ Assets Will Be Tough
06/26/2015 - Washington Times | Congress examines plans to reform justice system
06/25/2015 - Fox 17 | New efforts to reform Michigan’s civil asset forfeiture laws
06/11/2015 - Daily Signal | This Is the Moment for Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform
06/04/2015 - MLive | Michigan House approves civil asset forfeiture reform, reporting package
05/28/2015 - Daily Signal | Takeaway of Reform: It’d Be Harder for Authorities to Take Away Your Cash, Property
05/19/2015 - CNBC | Police cash confiscations still on the rise
05/12/2015 - The Atlantic | The Injustice of Civil-Asset Forfeiture
05/07/2015 - Fox 17 | Federal, state lawmakers push forward on reforms for asset forfeiture laws
04/23/2015 - MLive | Civil asset forfeiture reform package in Michigan House seeks to limit police confiscation power
04/20/2015 - Heritage Foundation | Civil Asset Forfeiture: Good Intentions Gone Awry and the Need for Reform
04/09/2015 - Townhall | Congress Must Step Up and Reform Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws
04/05/2015 - The Virginian-Pilot | Sibilla: No conviction, no confiscation
03/30/2015 - Washington Times | The tide is turning against asset forfeiture and Loretta Lynch
03/28/2015 - Santa Fe New Mexican | Our View: Stop policing for profit in New Mexico
03/25/2015 - Forbes | New Mexico Nixes Civil Asset Forfeiture
03/05/2015 - Detroit News | House Speaker: Michigan must reform asset forfeiture
02/25/2015 - Fox 17 | Crime fighting or questionable raids? A look at MI’s asset forfeiture laws
02/23/2015 - Detroit Free Press | Police seize property and cash in questionable raids
02/17/2015 - The Daily Signal | Police Have the Power to Seize Your Property. See Why the Issue Is Uniting Democrats and Republicans.
02/10/2015 - Politico Magazine | IRS Seizes First, Asks Questions Later
02/05/2015 - Monroe News | Civil forfeiture: Time for reform
02/05/2015 - Holland Sentinel: Right, left unite to curtail abuse of 'asset forfeiture' 
01/30/2015 - Tax News: Bills Curbs IRS Asset Forfeitures
01/29/2015 - Detroit News: Reform State Forfeiture Laws 
01/28/2015 - The Hill: Lynch Hearing Opportunity to Discuss Asset Forfeiture
01/28/2015 - Michigan Radio: Walberg bills could make it harder for police to seize property
01/28/2015 - CNS News: Congressional Coalition Seeks to Stem Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws
01/27/2015 - Free Beacon: Bipartisan Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Introduced
01/27/2015 - Washington Post: Lawmakers Push for Asset Forfeiture Reform
01/12/2015 - Reason: New York Forfeiture Department is a Mess
12/29/2014 - Dallas Morning News:  Asset Forfeiture Corrupts 
12/16/2014 - Mackinac Center for Public Policy | What are the Real Motives Behind Asset Seizures?
12/14/2014 - The Des Moines Register | Prosecutors drop effort to seize Iowa restaurant's cash 
11/21/2014 - WSJ: Lynch’s Money Pot
11/20/2014 - USA Today | When police play bounty hunter: Our view
- The Heritage Foundation Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Goes Mainstream
10/29/2014 - Thomas Reuters | IRS clarifies its position on civil forfeitures in uncharged structuring cases
- Hillsdale Daily News | Walberg introduces legislation to reform civil asset forfeiture laws
10/25/2014 -  The New York Times | Law Lets I.R.S. Seize Accounts on Suspicion, No Crime Required 
09/30/2014 - The Blaze | The Government Doesn't Need to Charge You With a Crime to Seize Your Assets and Property 
09/29/2014 -
ForbesThis Federal Program Lets Cops Seize Cash, Evade State Laws and Keep Over a Billion Dollars 
09/18/2014 -
Washington Post | Government self-interest corrupted a crime-fighting tool into an evil 
09/16/2014 - 
BBC News |  The growing outcry over police confiscation
09/12/2014 -
Forbes: After Cops Seized and Kept Cash, Washington, D.C. Settles Almost Million-Dollar Forfeiture Class Action 
08/18/2014 – The Daily Signal: Arresting Your Cash: Heritage Panel Discusses Civil Forfeiture Reform
08/15/2014 – Washington Times: When the highway robber wears a badge
08/13/2014 – Civil Asset Forfeiture Looks Like a Criminal Enterprise
08/12/2014 –
City Paper: Philly DA sued over $5.8 million civil forfeiture “machine”
07/31/2014 –
The Washington Post: Rep. Tim Walberg introduces bill to curb asset forfeiture abuse
07/29/2014 – House Bill introduced to Make it Harder for Feds to Take Your Stuff
04/14/2014 –
Washington Times: RAHN: Abuse civil asset-forfeiture laws
– The Economist: What civil-asset forfeiture means

Letters of Support for the FAIR Act:

Institute for Justice - Support the FAIR Act
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers - Support of H.R. 540
FreedomWorksSupport the FAIR Act to Stop Abuses of Civil Asset Forfeiture
ACLUEndorsement of the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council -The FAIR Act Should Become Law
National Federation of Independent Business - FAIR Act Support Letter
Americans for Tax Reform - FAIR Act Support Letter

Letters of Support for the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2014:

Institute for Justice - Support the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act 
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers - Support of H.R. 5212