Conservative Rep. Henry Hyde Sponsors Legislation Limiting Forfeiture
On June 15, 1993, conservative Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Illinois, 6th Dist.) introduced legislation, H.R. 2417 -- the "Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act," that would limit forfeiture by adding due process protections (No byline, "Legislation Would Discourage 'Adoptive' Forfeiture," Drug Enforcement Report, 6/23/93, p. 3). At the press conference announcing the bill's introduction, Hyde was flanked by Nadine Strossen, President of the ACLU, and Nancy Hollander, President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Hyde is among the more conservative members of the House of Representatives, garnering a score of 94 from the American Conservative Union in 1992, and is the Chairman of the Republican Policy Committee on the House, one of the important Republican leadership positions. He is the third ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.
The legislation would apply to federal forfeiture proceedings only. The bill would: (1) Shift the burden of proof from the property owner to the government, and require "clear and convincing evidence," much more than the current "probable cause," and more than typical civil standard of "preponderance of the evidence" (the only higher standard is "proof beyond a reasonable doubt", the government's burden of proof in criminal cases). (2) Authorize appointment of counsel for indigents in Federal civil forfeitures. (3) Protect innocent property owners. Lack of consent to illegal use of property would be a defense. (4) Eliminate the requirement that property owners trying to recover their property have to post a bond of 10% of the value of the property seized or at least $5000. (5) Lengthen from 10-days to 60-days the time allowed an owner to file a challenge to forfeiture. (6) Hold the government liable for damaging property due to its negligence. (7) Permit release of seized property to property owners if government possession during the proceedings would cause the claimant substantial hardship.