Yesterday Hot Air posted an article about a move in Texas to abolish Civil Asset Forfeiture. I have written about this procedure in the past (here, here, and here). One of the most common examples of Civil Asset Forfeiture occurs when the government accuses a small business owner of making multiple deposits of less than $10,000 in order to avoid federal regulations that track such deposits. The law has been used to take assets away from small business owners with little regard for their Constitutional rights. The assets seized can be sold and the money used to shore up local budgets. Needless to say, there is a lot of temptation there for some local governments. A few states have taken action to limit these forfeitures. Texas is now joining them.
The article reports:
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).
…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.
The home and money were eventually returned to their rightful owners after the cases got a ton of press. But Right on Crime Deputy Director Derek Cohen points out media attention doesn’t always happen, because the numbers aren’t really sexy (emphasis mine).
Ordinary citizens trying to run a business and live their lives should not have to worry about a government that almost arbitrarily can take their assets. It is good to see Texas moving in the right direction. Hopefully now the federal government will follow suit.