Meaningful Reform of Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws on the Horizon?

Dear NMA Members,

As noted in the NMA e-newsletter of a month ago, Flipping the Stacked Deck, civil asset forfeiture (CAF) is an, “. . . insidious means by which enforcement agencies profit by seizing property from citizens.” Because motorists are one of the most victimized groups of CAF, we have made it a primary agenda item when talking to lawmakers in Washington.

Perhaps triggered by the renewed call for police reform after the death of George Floyd and others at the hands of law enforcement, some U.S. senators are renewing a push for revamping CAF laws. NMA lobbyist Rob Talley reports:

  1. Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Angus King (R-ME), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Mike Crapo (R-ID) have reintroduced the FAIR (Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration) Act, a bill that would dramatically reform civil forfeiture. SB 4074 attacks the unjust profit incentives inherent in civil forfeiture as well as the unfair process that property owners face. The Institute for Justice’s Nick Sibila has published an op-ed in Forbes explaining why it deserves support.
  2. Per Senator Paul, the FAIR Act may be offered as an amendment to any policing reform bill that the Senate considers. The House-side backers of the FAIR Act made a similar effort a few weeks ago with the House policing reform bill, but they were not permitted to bring it forward in committee or on the House floor. There may be new opportunities now that the House and Senate are in a partisan stalemate.
  3. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Pat Leahy (D-VT) could soon reintroduce the Due Process Act. That legislation does not address the profit incentives of law enforcement but does include due process protections for property owners. That bill also was introduced in the House last year by Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) as HR 2835.

We will keep you apprised of developments with the FAIR and Due Process Acts. Both could have a significant impact for motorists.

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