Lee Questions Witness At Hearing On Asset Forfeiture

April 16, 2015

WASHINGTON—On Wednesday, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) participated in a Senate Judiciary hearing titled “The Need to Reform Asset Forfeiture.”  The hearing provided an opportunity to discuss the problems with Civil Asset Forfeiture and consider reforms to these laws.

Lee delivered the following opening statement prior to questioning witness Darpana Sheth, attorney for the Institute of Justice:

"The Constitution states that no person shall 'be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.' Despite this protection, the testimony today and recent news reports suggest that Due Process is often ignored when it comes to Civil Asset Forfeiture. While we all agree that crime should not pay, federal forfeiture laws have enabled and incentivized law enforcement practices that threaten our liberty. That’s why I am a cosponsor of the FAIR Act with my colleague Rand Paul.  I look forward to working with my fellow legislators to eliminate the profit incentive that forfeiture creates and to adopt procedures that better protect our constitutional rights."

Lee’s opening statement and question regarding the need to eliminate profit incentives in the federal system.

Lee’s question on returning the burden of proof to the federal government

Federal law currently allows law enforcement officers to keep property that they seize from those who are committing federal crimes. This practice, known as Civil Asset Forfeiture, is an important law enforcement tool to make sure that crime does not pay. However, because these laws allow police departments to keep the money that they seize, they create incentives for officers to focus on self-funding, even at the risk of violating constitutional rights.

Lee is a cosponsor of Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act of 2015 (FAIR Act), which eliminates the profit incentive for law enforcement officers and adopts procedures—such as notice and hearing rights, the right to an attorney, and higher burden of proof—that will better protect the rights of innocent property owners.