Speaking at a panel on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Reps. Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) sharply criticized the federal government’s use of civil forfeiture, which lets law enforcement confiscate property and pocket the proceeds for themselves, all without filing criminal charges.
“In this great country, the presumption of innocence has to be first and foremost,” Congressman Walberg said. “But with civil asset forfeiture, that’s not the case.”
Under federal law, property owners facing civil forfeiture are essentially guilty until proven innocent and must bear the burden of proof, unlike criminal cases. Worse, since many owners can’t afford an attorney to fight back in court (and aren’t entitled to one either), the overwhelming majority of civil forfeiture cases are decided “administratively,” or without a judge ever reviewing their case.
“What we’re looking at is a series of government shakedowns across the country,” Rep. Raskin said. “If you don’t think the government makes mistakes in cases like this, you’re too innocent to be let out of the house by yourself.”