Grassley, Leahy Work to Protect Innocent Americans from Abusive Asset Forfeiture Practices
WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy are working to enhance procedural protections for property owners whose assets are seized by the federal government.
The DUE PROCESS Act is the result of several months of bipartisan, bicameral discussions. The bill has already been introduced in the House of Representatives and has cleared the House Judiciary Committee.
“Asset forfeiture laws are important and valuable tools for law enforcement to gain control over assets used to further terrorism and the drug trade. But, we’ve learned that there have been excesses and that these tools are ripe for abuse,” Grassley said. “This bill is designed to protect the rights of people whose property has been seized over long periods of time without any judicial finding of criminal wrongdoing. It’s a step in the right direction to ensure that seizures happen in accordance with the law.”
“Civil asset forfeiture is an important tool for law enforcement, and I am committed to working to ensure it remains an effective one. But the many reports of abuse make it clear that improvements are needed,” Leahy said. “Roadside stops should not resemble shakedowns. Congress never intended asset forfeiture to serve as a fundraising tool. We must ensure our law enforcement officers have the resources they need, and we should appropriate those funds. And we must ensure that civil asset forfeiture laws remain consistent with our fundamental notions of due process and fair play.”
A hearing in the Judiciary Committee last year outlined several concerns associated with the program. Among the problems discovered were that the procedural protections available to property owners whose assets were seized – normally without any criminal charge, not to mention a conviction – were inadequate. Additionally, people in that position often don’t know their rights and don’t know how to proceed to challenge the seizure.
The DUE PROCESS Act:
- Extends time periods to make a challenge to seizures;
- Provides that property owners challenging seizure of assets who cannot afford lawyers will have them provided;
- Creates a hearing in which the court can explain to the person whose property was seized what their rights are;
- Codifies a new IRS practice restricting asset forfeiture in structuring cases by ensuring that forfeiture is available in structuring cases only where the failure to report large cash transfers to a bank is done in furtherance of another crime;
- Overturns a Supreme Court decision – Kaley – which concerns criminal forfeiture, where property is taken after a criminal prosecution. Under the bill, the defendant will be able to seek a hearing to show that the assets he is using to hire an attorney of his choice were not derived from the proceeds of the criminal activities he has been charged with committing.