Civil asset forfeiture has become a problem in America in recent years. I have written about a number of cases of forfeiture in recent years. Two of these stories are here and here. Hot Air posted an article today citing what Florida has decided to do about this government abuse of power.
The article at Hot Air reports:
The big deal with this particular reform is that, in most cases, Florida police will actually have to arrest and charge a person with a crime before attempting to seize and keep their money and property under the state’s asset forfeiture laws. One of the major ways asset forfeiture gets abused is that it is frequently a “civil”, not criminal, process where police and prosecutors are able to take property without even charging somebody with a crime, let alone convicting them. This is how police are, for example, able to snatch cash from cars they’ve pulled over and claim they suspect the money was going to be used for drug trafficking without actually finding any drugs.
The civil asset forfeiture law was put into effect to allow municipalities to sell off the assets of criminals and use the money for municipal purposes. In order to trace drug money, a law was passed that any cash deposit of $10,000 or more had to be documented by the bank involved. This law was abused and used against small businesses that generally made cash deposits of less than $10,000. They were accused of making the small deposits to avoid the law, and their bank accounts were seized. A number of small businesses were forced out of business by these actions. Aside from the fact that that this is simply government overreach, it is also a violation of the Sixth Amendment.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
Montana and New Mexico have already passed laws to curb the abuse of civil asset forfeiture laws. We need this trend to continue.