Civil Asset Forfeiture Revisited

Civil Asset Forfeiture Revisited

Michael Greenberg
Show Date
January 22, 2023
Civil LibertiesLaw EnforcementConstitution
Institute for Justice

Michael Greenberg of the Institute for Justice on the US Private Vaults Case

“The government's dragnet search of innocent peoples' private security boxes is the most outrageous Fourth Amendment abuse that the Institute for Justice has ever seen.” – Robert Frommer, Institute for Justice Senior Attorney

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, the FBI goes and does something so egregious that it shocks even long-time Institute for Justice attorneys.

If you’ve been following the issue of civil asset forfeiture, you may remember the case of Timbs v. Indiana [

], in which the Supreme Court unanimously overturned a decision by Indiana’s state Supreme Court, finding that the state’s seizure of a $42,000 Land Rover violated the 8th amendment’s “excessive fines & fees” clause. Law enforcement departments across the country have been colluding with federal law enforcement to effectively “police for profit,” with civil asset forfeiture being their primary tool. Under this practice, a person need not be found guilty for their property to be taken. Tyson Timbs, the defendant in that case, had the help of the IJ to fight through the long legal battle that he ultimately won. Many innocent victims of forfeiture laws simply throw up their hands and accept defeat.

Mike Greenberg is an attorney at the Institute for Justice who will join me Sunday (1/22) to discuss a new case in which the FBI blatantly violated the terms of their warrant in seizing over $80 million in assets from a safe deposit company called US Private Vaults. A few customers may have been breaking the law in associated with their vaults, but a majority of the assets and precious family heirlooms have now been restored to their rightful owners – but only after a fight.

Greenberg was part of the IJ’s legal team that fought on behalf of Paul and Jennifer Snitko, whose belongings were wrongly seized and photographed by FBI agents in March of 2021 without probable cause.

Let’s see what the Constitution says about that:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. – The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution

Seems pretty clear cut, no?

Greenberg and I will discuss the facts of the case before delivery a verdict.

What will the consequences be for the FBI this time?

Tune in to the show of #ideasnotattitude to find out.