The Laudable Pursuit: Don’t Let Government Take Your Stuff

Senator Mike Lee
2017-07-21 12:04:55
July 21, 2017 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln Chairman's Note: Don't Let Government Take Your Stuff Americans have a proud history of opposing government seizures of property. During the revolutionary period, American colonists protested broad warrants, called "writs of assistance," that British customs officers used to hunt for contraband. Those colonists would be shocked to learn that far bolder government seizures are carried out on a daily basis using civil forfeiture. Civil forfeiture rules vary by jurisdiction, so I'll use the federal government as an example. The Feds can seize your property if they believe it is connected to a crime, regardless of whether you're ever charged. Worse, the same officials who seize your property are entitled to keep it. That creates an irresistible incentive to act aggressively. Civil forfeiture is big business. In 2014, the Justice Department alone reported total forfeitures of $4.5 billion of forfeiture revenue (both criminal and civil). And about 87% of all forfeitures conducted by DOJ are civil, not criminal, forfeitures. The Feds can seize your property if they believe it is connected to a crime, regardless of whether you're ever charged. Worse, the same officials who seize your property are entitled to keep it. On Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinstituted two particularly controversial civil forfeiture practices: equitable sharing and adoption. These practices permit the federal government to process civil forfeitures on behalf of local officials. After the forfeiture has been processed and litigated under federal rules, federal officials remit cash generated by selling the property back to local officials. That allows local officials to bypass local laws, which often provide more procedural protections than federal rules. The Feds are part the racket, too, because they effectively get free money by processing a seizure. These practices present serious federalism and due process problems. Earlier this year, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that he is "skeptical" that modern civil forfeiture practices are constitutional. The Attorney General says that civil forfeiture is a way to "take back ill-gotten gains." But this confuses civil forfeiture and criminal forfeiture, which comes after someone has already been convicted. The entire problem with civil forfeiture is that the government doesn't need to conclusively show the property was connected to a crime and therefore neither it nor the public can be sure seized property qualifies as "ill-gotten gains." The AG also claims that civil forfeiture "helps return property to the victims of crime." But the AG himself acknowledges that officials use proceeds from seized property to buy supplies and improve training. This doesn't sound like law enforcement so much as a protection racket. The AG's core point, however, is that civil asset forfeiture "is a key tool that helps law enforcement." That may be true, but it comes at the cost of fundamental constitutional rights upon which the country was founded. The bad news is that civil forfeiture, like so many harmful government programs, is a bipartisan cause. Loretta Lynch, President Obama's Attorney General, quietly expanded the practice in 2016. Sessions appears to be following in her footsteps. The good news is that civil forfeiture reform is a bipartisan cause as well. Just this May, I wrote a letter with several of my colleagues from both parties calling for civil forfeiture reform. Additionally, Democrats and Republicans joined me in supporting the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act. When the government can seize our property on the basis of mere suspicion, the people form suspicions about government. They begin to see law enforcement officers as potential predators rather than protectors, which is unfair to the vast majority of law enforcement officers who are dedicated to serving their communities. A version of this note first appeared in The New York Post. The Consumer Freedom Amendment Tears Down that Wall Click here to watch video Issue in Focus: Why States Must Lead on Drone Regulation Last month, drone industry executives told President Trump they needed more regulation, not less, before they could expand further - a man-bites-dog story if ever there was one. But the answer isn't to keep waiting on Washington. It's to make use of one of our nation's founding principles: federalism. For now, the drone industry is grounded because the Federal Aviation Agency hasn't written guidelines for drones that fly beyond the operator's line of sight. Rules are also absent for drone flights at night. It will take years for this bureaucratic behemoth to pass through all the procedural hoops and hurdles necessary to produce a comprehensive regulatory scheme. The agency itself predicts drones won't be fully integrated into our nation's airspace until 2025. But our rivals aren't waiting. The Chinese-based manufacturer DJI is dominating the drone market, winning 50 percent of sales in North America alone. The only North American market not dominated by DJI is for drones priced under $500, which are mostly toys. Meanwhile, drones are making home deliveries in Japan. They're providing medical supplies in Rwanda. And they're tracking poachers in South Africa. All around the world, drones are changing the economy. American communities and businesses could use drones for plenty of tasks, too, if only they were allowed. But right now Americans don't have the regulatory certainty they need to hire workers and turn their ideas into products. The drone industry will be stuck on the launch pad until this is fixed. That's why a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill with to break the regulatory logjam and return power to states and local communities. The bill, titled the Drone Federalism Act, would recognize the right of states and local communities to govern drones within a specified zone of authority, the airspace under 200 feet. The FAA would still be responsible for the overall safety of the skies. But at this low altitude, state and local governments would be able to set guidelines for the "reasonable time, manner, and place" of drone flights. Until now, states and local communities have been shut out of the conversation. Not a single state, regional, or tribal authority serves on the 37-member Drone Advisory Committee to the FAA. Only one member, Mayor Ed Lee of San Francisco, represents a local government. Yet the committee is considering pre-empting local regulations by assuming full jurisdiction over drone use, regardless of height. Such a move would stall the growth of the American drone industry. Our bill would stop this power grab in its tracks. It would give state and local authorities the clarity and authority they need to develop rules for local drone use. It would give the drone industry the certainty to invest, experiment, and expand. And it would give our economy a boost. This IIF was co-written by Tom Cotton and first appeared in The Washington Times. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 SaveSaveSave SaveSave SaveSaveSave Save Save This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/iW4_g9AEN7 Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/oW4_g9AEN7 To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
July 21, 2017

"to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln

Chairman's Note: Don’t Let Government Take Your Stuff

Americans have a proud history of opposing government seizures of property. During the revolutionary period, American colonists protested broad warrants, called “writs of assistance,” that British customs officers used to hunt for contraband.
 
Those colonists would be shocked to learn that far bolder government seizures are carried out on a daily basis using civil forfeiture. Civil forfeiture rules vary by jurisdiction, so I’ll use the federal government as an example.
 
The Feds can seize your property if they believe it is connected to a crime, regardless of whether you’re ever charged. Worse, the same officials who seize your property are entitled to keep it. That creates an irresistible incentive to act aggressively.   
 
Civil forfeiture is big business. In 2014, the Justice Department alone reported total forfeitures of $4.5 billion of forfeiture revenue (both criminal and civil). And about 87% of all forfeitures conducted by DOJ are civil, not criminal, forfeitures.

The Feds can seize your property if they believe it is connected to a crime, regardless of whether you’re ever charged. Worse, the same officials who seize your property are entitled to keep it.  

On Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinstituted two particularly controversial civil forfeiture practices: equitable sharing and adoption.
 
These practices permit the federal government to process civil forfeitures on behalf of local officials. After the forfeiture has been processed and litigated under federal rules, federal officials remit cash generated by selling the property back to local officials. That allows local officials to bypass local laws, which often provide more procedural protections than federal rules. The Feds are part the racket, too, because they effectively get free money by processing a seizure.
 
These practices present serious federalism and due process problems. Earlier this year, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that he is “skeptical” that modern civil forfeiture practices are constitutional.
 
The Attorney General says that civil forfeiture is a way to “take back ill-gotten gains.” But this confuses civil forfeiture and criminal forfeiture, which comes after someone has already been convicted.
 
The entire problem with civil forfeiture is that the government doesn’t need to conclusively show the property was connected to a crime and therefore neither it nor the public can be sure seized property qualifies as “ill-gotten gains.”
 
The AG also claims that civil forfeiture “helps return property to the victims of crime.” But the AG himself acknowledges that officials use proceeds from seized property to buy supplies and improve training. This doesn’t sound like law enforcement so much as a protection racket.
 
The AG’s core point, however, is that civil asset forfeiture “is a key tool that helps law enforcement.” That may be true, but it comes at the cost of fundamental constitutional rights upon which the country was founded.
 
The bad news is that civil forfeiture, like so many harmful government programs, is a bipartisan cause. Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s Attorney General, quietly"expanded the practice in 2016. Sessions appears to be following in her footsteps.
 
The good news is that civil forfeiture reform is a bipartisan cause as well. Just this May, I wrote a"letter with several of my colleagues from both parties calling for civil forfeiture reform. Additionally, Democrats and Republicans joined me in supporting the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act.
 
When the government can seize our property on the basis of mere suspicion, the people form suspicions about government. They begin to see law enforcement officers as potential predators rather than protectors, which is unfair to the vast majority of law enforcement officers who are dedicated to serving their communities.

A version of this note first appeared in The" New York Post.

The"Consumer Freedom Amendment Tears Down that Wall

Click here to watch video

Issue in Focus: Why States Must Lead on Drone Regulation

Last month, drone industry executives told President Trump they needed more regulation, not less, before they could expand further — a man-bites-dog story if ever there was one. But the answer isn’t to keep waiting on Washington. It’s to make use of one of our nation’s founding principles: federalism.
 
For now, the drone industry is grounded because the Federal Aviation Agency hasn’t written guidelines for drones that fly beyond the operator’s line of sight. Rules are also absent for drone flights at night.
 
It will take years for this bureaucratic behemoth to pass through all the procedural hoops and hurdles necessary to produce a comprehensive regulatory scheme. The agency itself predicts drones won’t be fully integrated into our nation’s airspace until 2025.
 
But our rivals aren’t waiting. The Chinese-based manufacturer DJI is dominating the drone market, winning 50 percent of sales in North America alone. The only North American market not dominated by DJI is for drones priced under $500, which are mostly toys. Meanwhile, drones are making home deliveries in Japan. They’re providing medical supplies in Rwanda. And they’re tracking poachers in South Africa. All around the world, drones are changing the economy.
 
American communities and businesses could use drones for plenty of tasks, too, if only they were allowed. But right now Americans don’t have the regulatory certainty they need to hire workers and turn their ideas into products. The drone industry will be stuck on the launch pad until this is fixed.
 
That’s why a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill with to break the regulatory logjam and return power to states and local communities.
 
The bill, titled the Drone Federalism Act, would recognize the right of states and local communities to govern drones within a specified zone of authority, the airspace under 200 feet. The FAA would still be responsible for the overall safety of the skies. But at this low altitude, state and local governments would be able to set guidelines for the “reasonable time, manner, and place” of drone flights.
 
Until now, states and local communities have been shut out of the conversation. Not a single state, regional, or tribal authority serves on the 37-member Drone Advisory Committee to the FAA. Only one member, Mayor Ed Lee of San Francisco, represents a local government. Yet the committee is considering pre-empting local regulations by assuming full jurisdiction over drone use, regardless of height. Such a move would stall the growth of the American drone industry.
 
Our bill would stop this power grab in its tracks. It would give state and local authorities the clarity and authority they need to develop rules for local drone use. It would give the drone industry the certainty to invest, experiment, and expand. And it would give our economy a boost.

This IIF was co-written by Tom Cotton and first appeared in The"Washington Times.

Washington, D.C. Office
361A Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C., 20510
Phone: 202.224.5444
Fax: 202.228.1168
Salt Lake City
Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building
125 South State, Suite 4225
Salt Lake City, UT 84138
Phone: 801.524.5933
Fax: 801.524.5730
St. George
Office of Senator Michael S. Lee
285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200
St. George, UT 84770
Phone: 435.628.5514



SaveSaveSave SaveSave SaveSaveSave Save Save Save

Unsubscribe"| Update"My Profile | Privacy"Policy

This message was intended for: xxx
You were added to the system October 2, 2015.
For more information click"here