Finally, states are moving to rein in out-of-control police seizures of property

( No, this isn’t an anti-police rant penned by an out-of-touch NFL quarterback who’s past his prime, but it is a subject that is near and dear to the hearts of all freedom lovers.

Since Congress and the White House won’t address this problem, states are stepping up and passing asset forfeiture reform measures that will make it much more difficult for local police departments to pad their budgets by stealing the stuff of suspects, many of whom never get charged with a crime. As AMI Newswire reports:

States from coast to coast are fighting to rein in the power of police to seize private property .

Bills to reform asset-forfeiture laws and curb police overreach in Ohio and Pennsylvania are advancing after the signing of a California bill last month.

California’s new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2017, will make it the 18th state to reform asset-forfeiture laws over the past two years, according to the advocacy group Institute for Justice. Under traditional asset-forfeiture laws, law enforcement agencies can seize citizens’ property in a civil action before the owner is charged or convicted of a crime.

The reform bill in Ohio, which has passed the House of Representatives, would allow civil forfeitures only when the seized property goes unclaimed, the owner has died or the owner has been formally accused of a felony and can’t be brought to justice. The bill has been referred to the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee.

In Pennsylvania, the reform bill is less extensive. Senate Bill 869, which has passed the state Senate and is now in the House Judiciary Committee, would shift the burden of proof in such seizures from the property owner to the public agency. In addition, it would raise the standard of proof required to show the property owner is responsible for a crime.

In Arizona, the Institute for Justice is going through the court system in an attempt to overturn that state’s forfeiture law.

And so on.

For years civil libertarians have viewed such asset forfeiture as unconstitutional. They argue that forfeitures can move ahead even before a person is convicted of a crime, lack protections for the accused, create a financial incentive for police to seize as much property as possible and may even disproportionately affect low-income people of color.

“Today, utilization of civil asset forfeiture has ramped up following the start of the massive failure known as the war on drugs,” said the policy group Freedomworks in a news release.

There’s no question that is true. Asset forfeiture, while initially created as a deterrent to crime, has since become an instrument for abuse. It’s time that it went away.


(c) 2016 USA Features Media.




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