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Asset Forfeiture


“No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.”
– Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

For most of the history of our nation, the government did not claim the right to seize personal property of its citizens — unless the government had a superior right to that property. In recent years, the government has assumed a power that had been developed by Oriental Potentates — the right to seize the property of those accused of crimes — even before conviction.

Giving the government the power to seize a person’s assets unconnected with a crime is bad enough after conviction. It is much worse when government seizes a person’s assets before trial, as now permitted by several federal laws. One of the benefits to the government of a pre-trial seizure is that a defendant is robbed of his ability to resist the will of federal prosecutors. A defendant is unable to hire defense counsel of his choice, and is forced to rely on already overburdened federal defenders, often leading to plea bargains, even when the defendant is not guilty. CLDEF is fighting against this dangerous power of pre-trial seziure.

Additionally, CLDEF has argued that the TSA’s intrusive body scanners constituted a warrantless search and violate citizens’ rights, including his right to travel as protected by the Fifth Amendment.

Below are some of the Asset Forfeiture matters in which CLDEF has been involved.