While the mainstream media is busy worrying about President Trump’s temporary travel ban, they’ve missed a much larger infringement on our liberty. During a meeting with the country’s sheriffs, Trump casually mentioned his support for a legalized crime that is illegitimately called civil asset forfeiture. As always, it’s unclear whether or not he actually understands what the practice is, but his support for it without question is concerning to say the least. Thankfully, Justin Amash (R-MI) was paying attention, and he’s promised to work to introduce legislation to abolish civil asset forfeiture once and for all:
President Trump today endorsed stealing property from law-abiding Americans who haven’t been charged with—let alone convicted of—any crime. He also said, “We’ll destroy his career,” about a conservative Texas state senator who opposes this unconstitutional civil asset forfeiture.
My staff and I will work to introduce a bill to end civil asset forfeiture. I always will stand up for limited government, economic freedom, and individual liberty. And I always will keep my oath to support and defend the Constitution.
Civil asset forfeiture allows law enforcement to seize property from individuals without convicting them of a crime. There is nothing civil about it, nor is it forfeiture. It’s legalized robbery. In essence, law enforcement declares that property or cash has been involved in a crime and its owner then has to prove its innocence. Civil asset forfeiture is literally the opposite of innocent instead of proven guilty. The practice violates individual’s fundamental property rights and their rights to due process.
Thousands of innocent citizens are subjected to civil asset forfeiture every year and few are able to successfully reclaim their property. The Institute for Justice produced the above video explaining how easy it is to use the practice to steal an innocent person’s home. The organization has sued on the behalf of countless victims over the years.
There has been some progress in the fight against the practice but it hasn’t lasted. Property rights advocates in New Mexico were rewarded in 2015 when Republican Governor Susan Martinez signed a bi-partisan bill to abolish civil asset forfeiture in the state. But then, certain municipalities refused to comply with the law. Half of the state’s two million citizens live in the metro area around Albuquerque which continued its civil asset forfeiture programs. This limited success proves that the real fight against civil asset forfeiture needs to be at the national level.
Unlike some of Thomas Massie’s one sentence bills to end the EPA and the Department of Education, Justin Amash’s bill to end civil asset forfeiture will have to be much more complicated. The bill must explicitly prohibit any use of the practice and any related procedures. Law enforcement agencies are sure to scour the law for loopholes so it has to be airtight. Doing it right will take time, but if it is done correctly Amash can surely count on bi-partisan support. In fact, he’ll need Democratic support considering how many Republicans are blindly pro-law enforcement. That said, abolishing civil asset forfeiture is still possible. If anyone can do it, Justin Amash can.