I have written a number of articles citing cases of civil forfeiture in various states. Generally speaking these are situations where property was taken from Americans without regard to their Constitutional rights. If you type civil forfeiture into the search engine on this site, you can read the various articles. One example was posted in November of last year.
Forbes Magazine posted an article on its website today stating:
Earlier this year, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock signed a law that requires the government to first obtain a criminal conviction before taking and keeping someone’s property through civil forfeiture. This legislation also shifts the burden of proof onto the government—where it belongs—when spouses, neighbors and other innocent owners try to get back property used by a suspect without their knowledge. Montana’s civil forfeiture reforms are vital to restore due process and protect the property rights of the innocent.
New Mexico went even further and abolished civil forfeiture outright. As in Montana, law enforcement can only forfeit property after a criminal conviction. Crucially, this new law requires that all forfeiture money be deposited in the general fund, preventing it from becoming a police slush fund. Without a single vote cast against it, Gov. Susana Martinez (and a former prosecutor) signed this landmark reform on April 10.
The increase in civil forfeiture cases in recent years is related to the fact that money and property seized can be kept by the police and prosecutors in the civil forfeiture cases.
The article reports:
Speaking at a forfeiture conference, Pete Connelly, then the city attorney for Las Cruces, New Mexico, called civil forfeiture “a gold mine,” and told attendees, “We could be czars. We could own the city.”
…First, lawmakers must remove the profit incentive behind civil forfeiture. Allowing police and prosecutors to keep what they seize has enriched law enforcement at the cost of Americans’ constitutional rights. Since 1985, the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture Fund has grown from $27 million to over $2 billion in 2013. Nationwide, more than 500 police departments and task forces have seized the equivalent of 20 percent or more of their yearly budgets. To end this appalling incentive to police for profit, legislators should direct all forfeiture proceeds either to the general fund or to a specified neutral fund, like education.
Please follow the link above to read the entire article. It shows what can happen when the Constitution is not followed and the average citizen is not paying enough attention to realize what is happening.
Thank you, Montana and New Mexico, for taking the lead on this.