Legislative Update 7/17/98

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The following articles are reprinted from the Drug Policy Foundation's Network News, a monthly publication for DPF's advocacy network. To sign up to receive Network News, contact DPF at (202) 537-5005, e-mail [email protected] or visit DPF's web site at http://www.dpf.org.

MONEY LAUNDERING BILL EXPANDS CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE

H.R. 3745, the "Money Laundering Act of 1998," was unveiled by Rep. Bill McCollum (R-FL) as one of the bills to expand the war on drugs; its main focus is broadening the government's forfeiture powers. H.R. 3745 raises constitutional concerns including possible Fourth Amendment, due process and privacy rights violations. Additionally, H.R. 3745 intrudes on the role of the federal courts by significantly changing the rules of evidence and civil procedure, and conflicts with current efforts to curb U.S. Treasury and Justice Department forfeiture excesses. Some of the most troubling aspects of H.R. 3745 are the civil (non-criminal) asset forfeiture provisions. H.R. 3745 would:

  • allow the federal government to go on "fishing expeditions" by subpoenaing bank records before filing a complaint or starting a forfeiture procedure;
  • make it nearly impossible for a person to assert an "innocent owner" defense;
  • expand wiretapping authority for suspected violations of IRS form-filing requirements;
  • unduly expand the number of new acts that can be predicates for triggering the money laundering statute, allowing federal agencies to seize entire businesses and bank account for any and all manner of alleged regulatory and state law violations; and
  • expand the Department of Justice mandate by making DOJ into a de-facto world police force -- enforcing alleged violations of foreign nations' laws, even when foreign governments don't want to prosecute.
DPF supports meaningful asset forfeiture reform that uniformly limits the scope of the government's forfeiture powers by eliminating some of the most egregious civil forfeiture practices. DPF supports Rep. Henry Hyde's (R-IL) Manager's Amendment to H.R. 1965, the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act, and has written Rep. Hyde urging him to oppose H.R. 3745 and to move H.R. 1965 to a vote during this sessions of Congress.

REP.RANGEL SEEKS ELIMINATION OF SENTENCING DISPARITY

The criminal justice approach to dealing with the problems presented by drug use has created unacceptable social and legal side effects. Due to discriminatory enforcement practices and unjust mandatory minimum sentencing laws, a disproportionate number of young African-Americans are in prison for low-level drug offenses. While it only take five grams of crack cocaine to trigger a five-year mandatory minimum, it takes 500 grams of powder cocaine to receive the same sentence.

Rep. Charles Ranger (D-NY) has introduced H.R. 2031, the "Crack-Cocaine Equitable Sentencing Act of 1997," to eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine offenses. One of DPF's short-term priorities is to raise public awareness of the injustices of mandatory sentencing and its failure to have an impact on crime. DPF's first priority in this area is the elimination of the disparity in sentencing between crack cocaine and powder cocaine.

Rep. Rangel has requested that supporters of this legislation write to their members of Congress to express their support and request that their representative become a co-sponsor of this bill.

(You can call your Representative (or find out who your rep is) via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224- 3121. You can write to your rep at: U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515. Further information on asset forfeiture is available from Forfeiture Endangers American Rights, http://www.fear.org. Further information on mandatory minimums is available from Families Against Mandatory Minimums, http://www.famm.org.)

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Issue #50, 7/17/98 Week Online Hits 50th Issue, DRCNet on the Move | Drug Crazy Update | Drug Czar Gets Facts Wrong Again... Infuriates Dutch on Eve of Visit | Wire Report of the Week | Prohibition Poll on Time Online | Taliban Ban Television | Legislative Update | Editorial: The General Invades (and Insults and Infuriates) The Netherlands
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