Sen. Rand Paul has introduced S. 2644, the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act (FAIR Act). This legislation would enact many important forfeiture reforms on the federal level, and, if passed, would:
- Shift the burden of proof to the federal government. Under current law, property owners are required to prove they are innocent to get their seized property back. But with this new legislation, the government would have to prove that an owner intentionally used his or her property for criminal activity (or consented to its illegal use by another person).
- Raise the standard of proof required to forfeit property. Right now, the government only needs to show that a property is connected to a crime by a “preponderance of the evidence” (more likely than not) in civil forfeiture cases. If the FAIR Act passes, the federal government would instead need to prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that there was a substantial connection between illegal conduct and property.
- Stop the profit incentive for law enforcement. Current law lets the very same federal law enforcement agencies that seize property use all of the proceeds of forfeited property to pad their budgets. The FAIR Act would instead mandate forfeiture proceeds be deposited in the U.S. Department of Treasury’s General Fund and require Congress to appropriate the money through normal budget processes. This would give federal law enforcement less direct incentive to police for profit.
- End equitable sharing in civil forfeiture cases. Under this federal program, local and state law enforcement can bypass state civil forfeiture laws if they partner with a federal agency. Together, they can then forfeit property under federal law (which may have fewer protections for property owners) with the local and state law enforcement agencies getting up to 80 percent of forfeiture proceeds. The FAIR Act would largely end equitable sharing in civil forfeiture cases.
Read the full bill.