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Rep. Hyde Reintroduces Forfeiture Reform Legislation


September 1995

On June 22, Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation to reform the nation's civil forfeiture laws. H.R. 1916, "The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 1995," proposes to change the current forfeiture provisions by:

Hyde reiterated his commitment to forfeiture reform at a press conference announcing the publication of his new book Forfeiting Our Property Rights: Is Your Property Safe from Seizure? (see review). "This was one area that was indefensible and legal change was absolutely called for," he said.

Now the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, he said his bill has a better chance of passing this year than it did in 1993.

Civil forfeiture laws provide for the seizure of property based on a legal theory that holds property "guilty" of criminal behavior if the property was used in the commission of a crime. Currently property owners must prove their innocence in order to win the property back, even if the owner has not been charged with or convicted of a crime.

Under current law, the government must show only probable cause that the property was involved in criminal conduct in order to accomplish a forfeiture. Hyde's bill would require the government to present "clear and convincing evidence," a much higher level of proof.

Hyde said that he understands that the U.S. Justice Department is working on its own forfeiture legislation that he expects will not contain as many reform provisions.