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Walberg Leads Bipartisan Push to Rein in Civil Asset Forfeiture

November 10, 2017
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tim Walberg (MI-07) led a bipartisan letter this week to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Chairman John Culberson and Ranking Member José Serrano requesting they prohibit funding to implement the Department of Justice’s recent expansion of civil asset forfeiture. The letter was signed by a bipartisan group of 28 House members. During consideration of the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, the House unanimously approved Congressman Walberg’s amendment to block adoptive forfeiture practices.

“Our nation was founded on the principles of due process and property rights, and Congress must vigorously defend these values,” wrote the Representatives. “We cannot accept a system where the government continues to seize innocent people's property.  Therefore, as you finalize a spending package for fiscal year 2018, we respectfully request the inclusion of language that prevents the reinstatement of adoptive forfeitures.”

The full text of the letter is below and a PDF can be downloaded here.

Dear Chairman Culberson and Ranking Member Serrano:
 
We thank you for your leadership in ensuring Congress supports federal law enforcement with the resources they need while stewarding our constituents’ hard-earned tax dollars.  As the Committee works with your Senate counterparts to negotiate a final government funding package for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, we respectfully ask that you include language to curb the Department of Justice’s adoptive forfeiture policy in the final FY2018 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill.
 
During the consideration of H.R. 3354, the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, the House acted to advance the most significant federal legislative actions to limit civil forfeiture in years. On September 12, 2017, the House of Representatives unanimously supported a series of amendments to block the Department of Justice from reinstating its policy of adoptive forfeiture and circumventing state limitations on civil asset forfeiture.  These amendments, which were adopted by voice vote, were championed by a diverse group of lawmakers and supported by a broad coalition of organizations, including the American Conservative Union, the Institute for Justice, the NAACP, and the ACLU. 
 
A federally adopted forfeiture occurs when a state or local law enforcement agency seizes property allegedly tied to a criminal act and requests a federal agency take the seized asset and forfeit it under federal law.  In 2015, then-Attorney General Eric Holder imposed certain limits on adoptive forfeiture.  Regrettably, the Department of Justice reversed this policy in July and announced an expansion of the civil asset forfeiture program. 
 
In recent years, we have learned of a growing number of instances across the United States where the government has confiscated property from citizens and small businesses without any criminal conviction, or even criminal charges. The current civil forfeiture system is ripe for abuse, and has undermined the constitutional rights of far too many Americans. In response, 24 States and the District of Columbia have adopted reforms to their forfeiture laws.  Unfortunately, the Department of Justice’s reinstatement of adoptive forfeiture undermines these State laws and continues to threaten the due process rights of innocent Americans.
 
Our nation was founded on the principles of due process and property rights, and Congress must vigorously defend these values. We cannot accept a system where the government continues to seize innocent people's property.  Therefore, as you finalize a spending package for fiscal year 2018, we respectfully request the inclusion of language that prevents the reinstatement of adoptive forfeitures.

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