Texas State Senator Hopes to Abolish Civil Asset Forfeiture
“Sounds pretty compelling, right?”
As the Texas legislature meets for its biennial session, State Senator Konni Burton introduced legislation that would abolish civil asset forfeiture.
Taylor Millard blogs for HotAir:
Texas is looking to become the third state in the last year to abolish civil asset forfeiture, and replace it with criminal asset forfeiture. State Senator Konni Burton filed a bill last month which requires a felony conviction before law enforcement can gobble up someone’s property. It’s a major step in Texas’ fight for justice reform which has saved the state $3B (while crime rates are at record lows).
Civil asset forfeiture is a bit of a sticky wicket at times, because there are “tough on crime” groups fighting hard against it. The Federalist Society published a pro-asset forfeiture piece by then-federal prosecutor Stefan Cassella in 1997. Cassella called asset forfeiture very important because “federal law enforcement can employ [it] against all manner of criminal and criminals organizations.”
Forfeiture is also used to abate nuisances and to take the instrumentalities of crime out of circulation. For example, if drug dealers are using a “crack house” to sell drugs to children as they pass by on the way to school, the building is a danger to the health and safety of the neighborhood. Under the forfeiture laws, we can shut it down. If a boat or truck is being used to smuggle illegal aliens across the border, we can forfeit the vessel or vehicle to prevent its use time and again for the same purpose. The same is true for an airplane used to fly cocaine from Peru into Southern California, or a printing press used to mint phony $100 bills.
The government also uses forfeiture to take the profit out of crime, and to return property to victims. No one has the right to retain the money gained from bribery, extortion, illegal gambling, or drug dealing. With the forfeiture laws, we can separate the criminal from his profits — and any property traceable to it — thus removing the incentive others may have to commit similar crimes tomorrow. And if the crime is one that has victims — like carjacking or fraud — we can use the forfeiture laws to recover the property and restore it to the owners far more effectively than the restitution statutes permit.
Sounds pretty compelling, right?
There’s just one problem…the asset forfeiture laws are being misapplied in cases where people who are not convicted of crimes, end up losing their property because prosecutors and police believe they “may have” been involved in/had knowledge of a crime. A Philadelphia family was forced out of their home because their son was arrested on drug charges, even though it didn’t appear they knew what the 22-year-old was doing. A Texas man had over 53-thousand dollars in cash donations for an orphanage and school seized after he was pulled over in Oklahoma.
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What part of “No person shall…be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” does America not understand?