Rand Paul Is Trying to Fix Asset Forfeiture

We have written many times about “civil forfeiture” or “asset forfeiture” (see here, here, here, etc). It involves the police taking your property. The idea is that you should lose what you have gained by crime. But the law works so that you don’t have to be convicted. If the cops grab it you have to prove that you should get it back.

According to Radley Balko in the Washington Post, “Rand Paul introduces bill to reform civil asset forfeiture.”

The law, called the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act, would require the government to prove its case in a court of law before it could seize assets.

The bill would also require states “to abide by state law when forfeiting seized property.” This is important. Currently, a number of state legislatures across the country have passed reform bills to rein in forfeiture abuses. The problem is that the federal government has a program known as “adoption” or “equitable sharing.” Under the program, a local police agency need only call up the Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or similar federal agency. That agency then “federalizes” the investigation, making it subject to federal law. The federal agency then initiates forfeiture proceedings under the laxer federal guidelines for forfeiture. The feds take a cut and then return the rest — as much as 80 percent — back to the local agency.

The bill also mandates that all assets go to the general treasury rather than to the Attorney General’s Asset Forfeiture Fund. This should mean that Federal agencies will no longer have a personal incentive to grab property.

What really bothers me about this bill is that no one has done it before. Why not? We have had conservatives in Congress and even in the Senate before Ron Paul. We virtually owned the government from 2000 to 2006. Yet never before has any Republican offered such a basic law to restore civilization?

Why is that?