Just hours after the Institute for Justice announced it was joining another civil forfeiture lawsuit in Michigan against the federal government, the IRS filed motions to voluntarily dismiss two forfeiture actions against innocent Detroit-area small-business owners. Terry Dehko of Fraser, Mich., and Mark Zaniewski of Sterling Heights, Mich., will each get back all of the money seized without warning from their business's bank accounts (over $100,000 in total) by the federal government.
While today's victories vindicate the property rights of Dehko and Zaniewski, they do not solve the nationwide forfeiture problem. As recently demonstrated in the New Yorker and The Economist, civil forfeiture is now one of the greatest threats to property rights in America today. A separate federal lawsuit filed in September by the Institute for Justice on behalf of Terry Dehko and his daughter, Sandra Thomas, seeks to reform civil forfeiture law to protect the constitutional rights of property owners.
"The IRS should not be raiding the bank accounts of innocent Americans, and it should not take a team of lawyers to put a stop to this behavior," said IJ Senior Attorney Clark Neily. "We are thrilled that Terry, Sandy, and Mark will finally get their money back, but their fight does not end today. Our constitutional lawsuit against the federal government seeks to rein in the shameful practice of civil forfeiture."