Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) today announced he has introduced the FAIR (Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration) Act to add a bit more due process to the system by which federal prosecutors seize citizens' assets, often before ever proving they've broken the law. From his office's announcement:
The FAIR Act would change federal law and protect the rights of property owners by requiring that the government prove its case with clear and convincing evidence before forfeiting seized property. State law enforcement agencies will have to abide by state law when forfeiting seized property. Finally, the legislation would remove the profit incentive for forfeiture by redirecting forfeitures assets from the Attorney General's Asset Forfeiture Fund to the Treasury's General Fund.
"The federal government has made it far too easy for government agencies to take and profit from the property of those who have not been convicted of a crime. The FAIR Act will ensure that government agencies no longer profit from taking the property of U.S. citizens without due process, while maintaining the ability of courts to order the surrender of proceeds of crime," Sen. Paul said.
Looking over the legislation, the "clear and convincing evidence" replaces "a preponderance of evidence" threshold for the feds to attempt to force asset forfeitures. This is a higher legal burden of proof, requiring that "a party must prove that it is substantially more likely than not that it is true." It's still obviously not as good as requiring evidence of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt or for the federal government to actually convict somebody of a crime first, but baby steps, I guess.
The Daily Show just recently presented a segment on the "Highway-Robbing Highway Patrolmen," aptly illustrating how the twisted financial incentives from asset forfeitures turn law enforcement officers into thieves. Our lengthy archives of horrifying asset forfeiture stories can be skimmed through here.
Reason TV just interviewed Rand Paul this past weekend at the Lincoln Labs Reboot Conference in San Francisco. Watch below: