Issa amendment to curb civil forfeiture abuse passed as part of House spending bill

An amendment from U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) to rein in civil asset forfeiture abuse and redirect funding instead to testing a huge backlog of rape kits was passed by the House on Thursday as part of a sweeping spending package.

The House on Thursday passed the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, a $1.2 trillion spending bill for fiscal year 2018 in a 211-198 vote that provides increased funding for defense and other Republican priorities.

Issa, who serves as chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, said a lack of accountability in the nation’s civil forfeiture practices have eroded citizens’ constitutional rights. Civil forfeiture allows law enforcement to seize any property they allege is involved in a crime, even if the owner is not charged or convicted of a crime.

“Civil forfeiture remains a tremendous threat to private property rights and due process,” Issa said. “My amendment helps cut down on asset forfeiture overreach by refocusing the Department of Justice’s limited resources away from enabling the theft of Americans’ private property and instead towards providing the resources needed to help clear our nation’s growing backlog of untested sexual assault evidence. “

Specifically, Issa’s legislation takes $10 million from the Department of Justice’s budget allotted for civil forfeiture enforcement and instead directs it toward the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program. That program provides funding to local government to analyze unprocessed DNA evidence.

Issa cited data that shows as many as 400,000 sexual assault evidence kits remain untested in the United States.

“For too long, our sexual assault evidence kit backlog has been allowed to pile up, as evidence has collected dust in the backrooms of crime labs across our country,” Issa said. “The very least we can do for victims is provide authorities with the funding they need to get these kits tested and bring their offenders to justice.”