At the close of the 115th Congress, the First Step Act passed the Senate (87-12) and the House of Representatives (358-36) and was signed into law by President Trump on December 21, 2018. This bill, which made positive changes to the federal prison system as well as some modest federal sentencing reforms was the most significant bipartisan criminal justice reform passed in almost a decade and was one of the first major reform campaigns the Due Process Institute engaged in.
Following this important achievement, The Due Process Institute continues to look for those criminal justice reform issues where the Left and Right can come together for the common good as well as new partnerships from across the political spectrum to join our efforts to prevent the further erosion of procedural due process rights in the criminal legal system.
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (H.R. 3884) would de-schedule marijuana, removing it from the Controlled Substances Act, and would provide a process for courts to expunge marijuana convictions and re-sentence people with marijuana convictions. The Due Process Institute ENDORSES this bill.
The Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act of 2019 improves protections for Americans when facing civil asset forfeiture. It increases the burden of proof from a preponderance of evidence to clear-and-convincing evidence; ends the practice of equitable sharing; and directs forfeiture funds into a general fund to disincentivize wrongful takings, among other protections. Reps. Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) are the lead co-sponsors. The other original co-sponsors are Reps. Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Tom McClintock (R-CA), and Bobby Rush (D-IL). The Due Process Institute ENDORSES this bill.
The Restoring Education and Learning (REAL) Act, would restore Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated individuals so they can receive post-secondary education in prison. The original cosponsors are Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Dick Durbin (D-IL). The Due Process Institute ENDORSES this bill.
This bill would require people who form or already own small businesses and many nonprofits to submit extensive personal, financial, and business-related information to the government. H.R. 2513 creates 5 new federal crimes, defined with vague terms and standards, for first-time offense paperwork violations. The new regime would result in high burdens for small businesses and charities, exposing individuals to potential privacy violations as well as incarceration. The original cosponsors are Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Peter King (R-NY), and Tom Malinkowski (D-NJ). The Due Process Institute OPPOSES this bill and several related measures in both the House and the Senate. Please read our Hill Alert HERE.
This bill limited the IRS in its forfeiture power in cases where the only suspected crime is "structuring" rather than another crime for which structuring is used to conceal wrongdoing. The Due Process Institute ENDORSED this bill.
Update: The RESPECT Act was incorporated into the Taxpayer First Act and signed into law on July 10, 2019.
The House of Representatives passed the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act and included the E-mail Privacy Act. This is an important step towards updating our laws to reflect technological changes and respect the Fourth Amendment. The Due Process Institute ENDORSES this bill. Read the letter of support to the Senate Armed Services Committee that we signed here.
Section 314 and its implementing regulations already give significant cause for concern and fail to adequately protect Americans’ Fourth Amendment and privacy rights. Previous attempts to expand this program through statutory or regulatory means are even more concerning. It is our hope that FinCEN will reevaluate the necessity and efficacy of the Section 314 program and ultimately abandon the practice of warrantless bulk searches and seizures of financial records, or at the very least, adopt clear legal standards and procedural measures consistent with our foundational Constitutional rights. The Due Process Institute OPPOSES any attempted expansion of the Section 314 program.
The Due Process Institute has joined with dozens of other civil liberties organizations to urge the House Judiciary Committee to adopt important reforms to the reauthorization of Section 215. Chief among those reforms is the elimination of the Call Detail Records ("CDR") program. This program, run by the National Security Agency, was found to have illegally collected data on millions of Americans over a three year period. The Due Process Institute OPPOSES reauthorization of the CDR Program.
Both the House and Senate considered the inclusion of "Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Scheduled Analogues" (SITSA) (H.R. 2851/S. 1327) as part of their bill packages to take action relating to the nation's opioid epidemic. The bill would broadly expand penalties for drug offenses, concentrate power within the Department of Justice (DOJ), punish people who lack criminal intent, and overcriminalize certain behavior. The Due Process Institute OPPOSED this bill.
UPDATE: The House's final opioid bill package did not include SITSA.