Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Stands For 5th Amendment Rights, Prohibits Federal Funds From Being Used For DOJ Civil Asset Forfeiture
July 30, 2020
Washington, DC—Today, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) spoke on the House Floor to urge colleagues to pass a bipartisan amendment to protect Americans’ Fifth Amendment rights.
She spoke in favor of an amendment she cosponsored with Rep. Tim Walberg (MI-07) that would prevent funding from being used by the Department of Justice to engage in civil asset forfeitures as outlined by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ 2017 directive that made these seizures easier to do. The amendment was passed by voice vote. Below is a video and transcript of her remarks:
“Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I commend my colleague from Michigan for his leadership on this very important, bipartisan issue.
“There should not be much dispute around the constitutional basis for the need of this change. In plain language, civil forfeiture basically allows police to seize, keep or sell any property they allege is involved with a crime. Owners of that property may never be arrested or convicted of a crime, but they'll see their money or their cars or their homes be promptly taken away permanently.
“Now, in 2017, the Department of Justice expanded civil asset forfeiture, allowing local law enforcement to bypass state laws and seize property from people with the lowest possible burden of evidence. Again, regardless of whether or not that person was ever convicted or even charged with a crime. Furthermore, it puts the burden of proof on the private citizen to go through the bureaucracy and the red tape to attempt to reclaim their property, which is extremely difficult to do. This violates the very principle of our justice system: innocent until proven guilty.
“It’s a violation of the Fifth Amendment. It says no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.
“This is a commonsense, bipartisan measure. I'm proud to stand in strong support, and urge my colleagues to vote yes.”
Background: The practice of adoptive forfeiture was significantly drawn back in 2015 by then Attorney General Eric Holder and limited to exceptions related to public safety. However, in 2017, Attorney General Sessions issued a policy directive reauthorizing adoptive forfeiture practices.
In September 2017, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard successfully passed a similar, bipartisan amendment to the annual government funding bill with her colleagues to prevent police forces from seizing private property for profit without due process.
A federally adopted forfeiture occurs when a state or local law enforcement agency seizes property allegedly tied to a criminal act and requests a federal agency take the seized asset and forfeit it under federal law. These policies give a greenlight to confiscate personal property, including money, cars, and even homes, without a judicial warrant or without charging anyone with a crime, and without any proof that the property is being used illegally or consists of ill-gotten gains. There is no requirement that the individual whose property is forfeited ever face charges, let alone be convicted of any criminal activity.
Once the property has been seized, the burden is on the individual to prove his or her innocence to retrieve their property, rather than on the government to prove that the property may have been involved in criminal activity.
This tool has been egregiously abused in the past. From 2000 through the third quarter of 2017, state and local law enforcement agencies received more than $969 million from over 79,000 adoptions. Perhaps in response to this enormous sum, 32 States and the District of Columbia have adopted reforms to their forfeiture laws since 2014.
About Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is serving her fourth term in the United States House representing Hawai‘i’s Second District, and serves on the House Armed Services and Financial Services Committees. She previously served on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Homeland Security Committee. She was elected to the Honolulu City Council in 2010, and prior to that at age 21, was elected to the Hawaiʻi State Legislature in 2002, becoming the youngest person ever elected in the state. Tulsi Gabbard has served in the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard for over 17 years, is a veteran of two Middle East deployments, and continues to serve as a Major. Learn more about Rep. Tulsi Gabbard...
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