Friday, July 29, 2016

Civil forfeiture reform takes effect in Nebraska

Tenth Amendment Center Blog | New Nebraska Law Taking on “Policing for Profit” Via Asset Forfeiture Now in Effect:

July 20, 2016 - "Today, civil asset forfeiture officially ends in Nebraska as reforms to asset forfeiture laws passed in the spring go into effect. Under the new law, the state can no longer take property without a criminal conviction. The legislation also takes on federal forfeiture programs by banning prosecutors from circumventing state laws by passing cases off to the feds in most situations.

"Sen. Tommy Garrett (R-Bellevue) introduced Legislature Bill 1106 (LB1106) in January. The new law reforms Nebraska law by requiring a criminal conviction before prosecutors can proceed with asset forfeiture. Under the old statute, the state could seize assets even if a person was never found guilty of a crime, or even arrested.

"The unicameral legislature passed  LB1106 by a 38-8 vote.

"'Civil forfeiture is one of the most serious assaults on due process and private property rights in America today. By passing LB 1106, lawmakers will ensure that only convicted criminals — and not innocent Nebraskans — lose their property to forfeiture,' Institute for Justice (IJ) Legislative Counsel Lee McGrath said.

"LB1106 also closes a loophole that allows prosecutors to bypass more stringent state asset forfeiture laws by passing cases off to the federal government under its Equitable Sharing forfeiture program. The following language shuts the loophole in most cases:

"No law enforcement agency or prosecuting authority of this state or its political subdivisions shall transfer or refer any money or property to a federal law enforcement authority or other federal agency by any means unless
  1. The money or property seized exceeds twenty-five thousand dollars in currency or value;....
"Data analysis by the Institute for Justice found that in 2013, out of all properties seized under equitable sharing in Nebraska, 78 percent were under $25,000. In fact, half of all seized assets were valued at under $6,035.... In other words, under the new law, asset forfeiture without conviction will be ended for more than 78% of cases in the state....

"[F]ully closing the federal loophole can be taken up in new legislation next year. 'Police shouldn’t be allowed to circumvent the law just because the property value is high,' said Michael Boldin of the Tenth Amendment Center. 'We applaud these important first steps and recognize that it will have a significant impact going forward. But that loophole must be fully closed as soon as possible.'"

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