Congress Must Step Up and Reform Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws

“I did not serve three combat tours in Iraq only to come home and be extorted,” Andrew Clyde, a US Navy veteran, told an oddly united House Ways and Means subcommittee in a February hearing.

Clyde is now a gun store owner near Athens, Georgia, a college town located roughly 70 miles outside of Atlanta. He told members of the subcommittee about his experience with the Internal Revenue Service, which seized $950,000 from his business’ bank account in April of 2013 through civil asset forfeiture.

The Bank Secrecy Act requires financial institutions to report cash deposits over $10,000 to the federal government. When it appears that a person or a business is trying to circumvent this regulation, the IRS can use civil asset forfeiture, a pernicious tool that gives extraordinary power to the federal and most state governments to ignore constitutional protects of due process, to seize property from those merely suspected of a crime, many of whom have not done anything wrong.