Skip to content
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Deterring Undue Enforcement by Protecting Rights of Citizens from Excessive Searches and Seizures (DUE PROCESS) Act, sponsored by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), passed the House Judiciary Committee and now moves forward to a full House vote. 

The DUE PROCESS Act builds upon changes made in the 2000 Civil Action Forfeiture Reform Act by increasing transparency in the civil asset forfeiture process, adding protections for innocent property owners, and implementing additional protections to ensure property owners have the opportunity to contest seizures. The legislation also improves the notice that the government must give property owners and makes it easier for them to be heard by a judge.

Additionally, the DUE PROCESS Act entitles property owners to an initial hearing, where they can retrieve confiscated property immediately if it was not seized according to the law. It increases the availability of attorney fees for innocent owners, and places a higher burden of proof on the government.

Congressman Sensenbrenner:
 “Civil asset forfeiture is an important piece of the overall effort to reform our criminal justice system, and the DUE PROCESS Act makes common sense changes to federal forfeiture laws that help innocent Americans. Its passage out of the House Judiciary Committee is a significant step forward in the process, and I’m confident that it will soon be passed in a full House vote.” 
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement in response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) renewable fuel standard proposal to increase ethanol volume obligations to nearly 19 billion gallons in 2017:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Proposing that nearly 19 billion gallons of ethanol be incorporated into the fuel supply is another example of excessive EPA bureaucratic over-reach – a mandate that is harmful to American consumers and robs them of their freedom to choose. Environmentally, it probably does more harm than good, and it will lead to misfueling, damaged engines, voided warranties, and increased emissions. The EPA should not be in the business of limiting choices or picking winners and losers when it comes to ethanol.”
 
For the last few years, opponents of civil forfeiture have been calling on Congress to make it more difficult for law enforcement to take property, cash, and vehicles from innocent Americans through a process known as civil asset forfeiture.

Now, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers on Capitol Hill is taking action.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., is spearheading legislation reforming federal civil forfeiture laws. He, along with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, introduced the Due Process Act on Thursday.

The legislation would raise the burden of proof from a “preponderance of evidence” to “clear and convincing,” which makes it more difficult for the government to forfeit property, especially from innocent people.

Under the Due Process Act, or the Deterring Undue Enforcement by Protecting Rights of Citizens from Excessive Searches and Seizures Act of 2016, the burden would also be shifted away from the property owner and on to the government to prove that there was a “substantial connection” between seized property and criminal activity.

Under current civil forfeiture law, property owners fighting a seizure must prove that their seized assets are not connected to criminal activity or that they didn’t know the property was being used in a crime.

Sensenbrenner’s bill would also increase transparency among federal agencies seizing property and calls for an annual audit of civil forfeitures. The Due Process Act further creates a publicly available database of all federal forfeitures.

In addition to making it more difficult for lawmen to forfeit property, particularly from innocent property owners, the bipartisan legislation creates a right to counsel for all property owners challenging a civil forfeiture and allows a property owner to recover lawyer’s fees if they successfully challenge a forfeiture against the government.

The Due Process Act also codifies policy changes implemented by the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service regarding structuring.

Structuring involves making consistent cash deposits or withdrawals of just under $10,000 to avoid government reporting requirements.

Under a subset of civil forfeiture laws regulating cash deposits, the government can seize money from those accused of committing structuring violations.

However, many cases have arisen in recent years involving small business owners who had thousands of dollars seized by the IRS for committing structuring violations.

In many of those instances, property owners were unaware they were breaking the law and were ultimately never charged with a crime.

Both the IRS and Justice Department announced in 2014 and 2015, respectively, they would only pursue structuring cases if the property owner had been charged with a crime or if the money was used for criminal activity.

But experts encouraged Congress to codify those policy changes.

“Today’s introduction of the Due Process Act is a tremendous step forward for the rights of innocent property owners,” Jason Snead, a policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal. “The act adopts many of the reforms advocated for by Heritage and a broad coalition of organizations.”

Though the Due Process Act addresses key issues opponents of civil forfeiture have with the tool, it doesn’t take aim at the Justice Department’s Equitable Sharing program or the profit incentive civil forfeiture creates for law enforcement agencies.

Under Equitable Sharing, law enforcement agencies can pursue forfeitures under federal law instead of state law, which experts say allows law enforcement to skirt stricter state civil forfeiture laws in favor of the looser federal standards. Additionally, under the Equitable Sharing program, law enforcement agencies can keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds from forfeited property.

Furthermore, at the federal level and in many states, law enforcement agencies can keep 100 percent of the proceeds from forfeitures if they’re not seized under Equitable Sharing.

“It is unfortunate that neither the Equitable Sharing program nor the broader financial incentives in forfeiture law have been addressed,” Snead said. “So long as agencies can retain and spend the proceeds they generate from the forcible seizure of property, there will be a temptation to abuse forfeiture laws to generate revenue.”

In speaking publicly about civil forfeiture, law enforcement officials have praised the tool for providing agencies with money outside of the normal budget process.

Civil asset forfeiture is a tool that gives law enforcement the power to seize property if they suspect it’s tied to a crime.

Law enforcement ramped up the use of civil forfeiture to combat the war on drugs in the 1980s. However, in recent years, many innocent Americans have been caught up in the forfeiture system after having cash, cars, and property seized.

Many of those people were ultimately never charged with a crime.

Congress first tackled civil asset forfeiture in 2000 through the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act.

Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., tried to reform civil asset forfeiture laws last year through the Fair Act, or the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act of 2015.

However, the legislation didn’t move through House or Senate committees.

View this article online here.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced the Deterring Undue Enforcement by Protecting Rights of Citizens from Excessive Searches and Seizures (DUE PROCESS) Act, which would enact meaningful reforms to the federal civil asset forfeiture process.

The DUE PROCESS Act builds upon changes made in the 2000 Civil Action Forfeiture Reform Act by increasing transparency in the civil asset forfeiture process, adding protections for innocent property owners, and implementing additional protections to ensure property owners have the opportunity to contest seizures. The legislation also improves the notice that the government must give property owners and makes it easier for them to be heard by a judge.

Additionally, the DUE PROCESS Act entitles property owners to an initial hearing, where they can retrieve confiscated property immediately if it was not seized according to the law. It increases the availability of attorney fees for innocent owners, and places a higher burden of proof on the government.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Forfeiture is a critical tool in the fight against crime, but it is also vulnerable to abuse. The DUE PROCESS Act, among other things, will increase transparency and add protections for innocent property owners, including the opportunity to contest seizures and regain illegally seized property immediately. Reform to the current federal forfeiture laws is necessary to curb abuse, restore confidence in law enforcement, and help citizens protect their property rights.”
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H.R. 5046, the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act of 2016 (COARA), legislation introduced by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.).

The bill creates a comprehensive opioid abuse reduction program at the Department of Justice, which would, among other things, provide vital training and resources for first responders and law enforcement, aid in criminal investigations for the unlawful distribution of opioids, and expand drug courts.

Additionally, the comprehensive grant program created by H.R. 5046 is fully offset, meaning it successfully directs funds to address the opioid epidemic by taking advantage of existing funding. The result is no net increase in spending authorizations and no additional burden on the American taxpayer, which is a responsible, good-government approach to the epidemic. 

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Today’s passage of the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act is another important step forward in our fight against heroin and opioid addiction. It signals the seriousness of our national struggle with addiction, the need for immediate action, and the commitment of lawmakers to pass meaningful, bipartisan legislation. I’m optimistic about the future of this bill and the great good it will affect throughout the country.”

Background:

Addiction to opioids such as heroin, morphine, and other prescription pain medicines, has a devastating hold on this country. Between 435,000 and 1.5 million people in the United States currently use heroin, and an alarming number of them are younger than 25 years old. 

Between 2002 and 2013, national heroin deaths nearly quadrupled, reaching more than 8,000 annually by 2013. Beyond health care costs, other significant economic burdens are associated with opioid abuse, such as costs related to criminal justice and lost workplace productivity. In total, opioid abuse imposes an estimated $55 billion in societal costs annually. 

In Wisconsin, more than 800 overdose deaths occurred in 2015 – double the number of deaths from overdose in 2004. Between 2006 and 2011, the state experienced a 350 percent increase in heroin samples submitted to the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory by law enforcement. In 2012, the number of heroin-related deaths jumped by nearly 50 percent and statewide data shows one quarter of Wisconsinites who abuse the drug began using when they were younger than 25 years old. Drug overdose deaths have increased 137 percent from 2010, with opioid related deaths increasing by 200 percent.  
 
Main Street is the epitome of the American dream. It's the culmination of years of painstakingly hard work, dogged determination, and the desire to succeed. These things have defined America since its conception. For more than 200 years, we have been a nation of doers, and nowhere is that more apparent than in our small business sector.

The United States is home to roughly 28 million small businesses. They represent more than 99% of all employers and employ half of all private-sector workers. They provide roughly 70% of net new jobs annually, pay 44% of the total private payroll in the United States, and produce an approximate GDP of $6 trillion.

America's small businesses drive our economy. They employ our citizens, provide vital services, and create products that improve our lives. Yet, despite the powerful impact they have on this country, small businesses are struggling under the heavy hand of Big Government. The burdensome regulations pushed on small businesses by President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, are the most significant in recent years.

The Congressional Budget Office predicted that the combination of subsidies, taxes and Medicaid expansions would discourage work, reduce labor, and cut aggregate compensation. Conversely, President Obama promised that his signature legislation would mean "more choice, more competition, and lower costs for millions of Americans." The president also claimed that "if you like your health care plan, you can keep it."

It turns out that the CBO prediction was right, while the president received Politifact's "Lie of the Year" in 2013 for his broken promise to the American people.

Plans available to employers vanished as the law was implemented — replaced with more expensive alternatives. Nearly two-thirds of people with health coverage have employer-sponsored plans, resulting in significant costs for business owners. As health insurance premiums continue to increase, small business owners are faced with difficult choices concerning what coverage, if any, they will provide their employees.

In a 2014 study conducted by Devon M. Herrick, senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, Herrick found that employers pass increased health care costs on to workers, such as higher co-payments, delayed hiring, and reduced work hours. All these things mean less money for middle class families.

When forced to choose between their bottom lines or covering higher employee health care costs, many employers opt to drop coverage all together because it is more cost effective to pay noncompliance penalties to the IRS than absorb the heightened financial burden. Other business owners choose to forgo expanding their companies in order to remain under the 50-employee threshold dictated by the law, allowing them to abstain from offering employee health insurance at all. Still others reduce workers' hours in efforts to curb costs. Again, these realities mean less opportunity and lower incomes for middle class families.

These options not only harm national, state, and local economies, but also handicap innovation and growth while putting unnecessary burdens on the American people.

Six years of the Affordable Care Act have negatively impacted the states, and although Gov. Scott Walker had the foresight and common sense to reject Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, opting for a more creative, state-centric plan, Wisconsin small businesses are still feeling the pain of the law's mandates.

At the time his study was released, Herrick found that about 10,000 Wisconsin workers would lose or leave small group employer plans due to regulations in the Affordable Care Act by this year. He also found the average cost of a family employer plan in Wisconsin to be higher than those of 42 other states.

It is no surprise that the majority of Americans disapprove of the president's health care law. According to a recently published Pew Research Center national survey, 54% of respondents said Obamacare has had a mostly negative impact on the country. Congressional Republicans have put forward many repeal efforts, all of which have either been blocked by Democrats or vetoed by President Obama.

The Affordable Care Act has been a disaster for our country. As we look forward to the future, it's clear that the nation's economic success rests heavily on the ability of our small businesses to grow and flourish. In order for that to happen, we must repeal and replace Obamacare, free our businesses from its onerous regulations, and pursue a limited government, free market approach to our health care.

View this piece online here.
Right now, people need our help.

Right now, thousands in Wisconsin and across America are struggling with opioid abuse. And that's why stopping this epidemic is a top priority in the House of Representatives.

The scope of the epidemic has expanded dramatically. Between 2004 and 2012, the proportion of deaths related to opioids increased by approximately 38%. About 4.3% of Wisconsin adults reported using heroin or other opioids in 2013, which was a marked increase from a decade earlier. In fact, every 25 minutes, a baby is born in America with drug withdrawal symptoms.

Prescription painkillers and heroin are the primary driving forces behind this epidemic. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2014, 45% of people who used heroin reported that they were also addicted to prescription pain killers.

Many states, including Wisconsin, have stepped up to the challenge. They've passed legislation to help combat opioid addition and abuse. But now it's time for action on the national level.

This week, the House will pass a package of bills to curb opioid abuse, addiction, and deaths. One important piece of legislation is the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act, introduced by my friend, colleague, and fellow Wisconsinite, U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Menonomee Falls). His bill creates a comprehensive opioid abuse reduction program at the Department of Justice. This program will direct federal resources to the opioid abuse problem, and gives states the flexibility to attack opioid abuse issues in their communities.

Other bills the House is considering this week will help local officials on the front lines of this fight. They will ensure federal dollars are going to programs with positive, evidence-based outcomes. They will also care for expecting mothers and their children, review how pain medication is prescribed, and help qualified veterans become emergency medical technicians to fight this crisis on the ground.

The Senate has passed bipartisan legislation by a vote to 94 to 1, and now the House is following suit. We can win this fight. Now let's get the job done.

View this piece online here.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed H.R. 5046, the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act of 2016 (COARA), legislation introduced by Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.).

Addiction to opioids such as heroin, morphine, and other prescription pain medicines, has a devastating hold on this country. Between 435,000 and 1.5 million people in the United States currently use heroin, and an alarming number of them are younger than 25 years old. 

Between 2002 and 2013, national heroin deaths nearly quadrupled, reaching more than 8,000 annually by 2013. Beyond health care costs, other significant economic burdens are associated with opioid abuse, such as costs related to criminal justice and lost workplace productivity. In total, opioid abuse imposes an estimated $55 billion in societal costs annually. 

The Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act of 2016 creates a comprehensive opioid abuse reduction program at the Department of Justice, which will direct federal resources for drug abuse programs directly at the opioid problem. This bill will give states and localities flexibility to attack opioid abuse issues unique to their communities. 

The comprehensive grant program created by H.R. 5046 is fully offset, meaning it successfully directs funds to address the opioid epidemic by taking advantage of existing funding. The result is no net increase in spending authorizations and no additional burden on the American taxpayer, which is a responsible, good-government approach to this epidemic. 

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Today’s unanimous passage of the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act signals the seriousness of heroin and opioid addiction in America and the immediate need for action. It also demonstrates the commitment from lawmakers to address this issue and pass meaningful, bipartisan legislation that will extend a helping hand to the individuals, families, and communities that desperately need it. I’m optimistic about the future of this legislation and the positive impact it will have throughout this nation.”
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the American Conservative Union Foundation (ACU) released its annual ratings of the United States Congress based on individual Members’ votes on key legislation important to conservatives. Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner received an impressive 2015 score of 96 out of 100, and earned a significant lifetime rating of 90.19.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “I’m extremely proud of my legislative voting record. It reflects my firm commitment to common sense, conservative values and highlights the importance I’ve continually placed upon the principles the people of Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District have elected me to uphold.”  

Congressman Sensenbrenner’s record of conservative achievement stands above both the Combined House average of 45% and the House Republican average of 77%. He also rates most conservative among the Wisconsin delegation.
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner will receive the prestigious Justice Award from the American Bar Association (ABA) for his efforts and long standing record of achievement in the areas of criminal justice reform and voting rights.  

Specifically, the ABA will recognize Congressman Sensenbrenner for his leadership on the introduction of the Second Chance Reauthorization Act of 2015 and the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2015

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “My legislative priorities in Congress have always been guided by my desire to serve the people of this nation while respecting and upholding the rule of law. While I’ve never sought recognition for my efforts, it is truly an honor to receive this distinguished award from the American Bar Association and I look forward to continuing my work on behalf of Wisconsin and the American people.”

The American Bar Association’s “Day in Washington” formalized the tradition of honoring selected Members of Congress on a bipartisan basis for significant efforts in support of ABA legislative priorities and on a variety of issues of importance to the legal profession and the administration of justice in 1999.