Forfeiture Endangers American Rights

Forfeiture Publications

Legislative Action Alert:
Rep. Hyde's Manager's Amendment to HR 1965

FEAR-List Bulletin posted by FEAR Interim Director, Tom Gordon, 4/17/98

To all:

The following is a sample letter which I strongly encourage everyone to send to their Congressman, especially those highlighted in yesterday's posting about the  Hyde manager's amendment.  This is an important moment for forfeiture reform, and we need all the help we can get in seeing that Hyde's *real* reform bill gets to the floor of the House.

Our efforts will be much more effective if you do not send this letter exactly as is.  Please add some information that you think may be pertinent.  For example, you could add a few sentences about your own reasons for supporting forfeture reform, or you could summarize one of the victim stories from our website.  (The latter is an especially good idea if there is a victim in your congressional district.)  You can also add other information about the legislation from the FEAR website (
Personalizing the letter will show the true grassroots support for forfeiture reform.

If you do not know who your Congressman is, you can find their address using the  Zipper, a web-based program located at  There is also a link to the Zipper on the FEAR Legislation - New Federal Legislation Page.

Thank you in advance to all of you who are helping us in the fight to protect citizens and their property from government theft.

Tom Gordon
FEAR Interim Director

(begin letter)

The Honorable [Name]
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC  20515-XXXX

Dear Congressman [Name]:

Our nation is faced with a growing crisis in law enforcement because of our civil asset forfeiture laws. These laws allow police to confiscate the property of an individual based only upon probable cause to suspect that the property was involved in a crime.  Once the police take possession of someone's property, it is the burden of the property owner to prove the "innocence" of his property.  Even the innocence of the property owner does not necessarily establish the innocence of his property, since under the law, it is the property, not the person, who is on trial.  Many innocent people, young and old, of all backgrounds, have lost their property because
overzealous police are aware of how easy it is for them to seize and retain the property of innocent people.

Congressman Henry Hyde (R-IL) is backing a manager's amendment to H.R. 1965 which would make substantial improvements to the civil asset forfeiture laws.   Congressman Hyde's manager's amendment would provide citizens whose property is forfeited with many of the Constitutional rights which have long been denied them under existing forfeiture laws.  Among its reforms are a shift in the burden of proof in forfeiture cases to the government, a provision for the appointment of counsel for indigent forfeiture victims, and a provision allowing citizens to sue the government for negligent handling of property that has been returned to them.

I urge you to support Congressman Hyde's manager's amendment to H.R. 1965. Without meaningful forfeiture reform such as that described above, we will see a  further erosion of the Constitutional protection of people's property rights.

(end letter)