Friday, June 15, 2018

Wisconsin governor signs civil forfeiture reform

News - Wisconsin Enacts Sweeping Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform | Heartland Institute - Owen Macaulay:

June 11, 2018 - "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill  protecting residents’ constitutional rights to property and due process. Senate Bill 61 (S.B. 61), sponsored by state Sen. David Craig (R-Town of Vernon), sets new requirements for law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in using civil asset forfeiture to take ownership of individuals’ seized assets or property.

"In most cases, police or prosecutors now must obtain a criminal conviction before property held by individuals accused of committing a crime can be forfeited. The law went into effect on April 5.

"Lindsey Stroud, state government relations manager for The Heartland Institute ... says many law enforcement agencies have routinely abused the civil asset forfeiture process. 'It’s a problem because, in a lot of these states, if you’re an innocent person, your property can be taken away from you,' Stroud said. 'A lot of these laws allow the law enforcement agencies to retain what they take'....

"Craig says the bill he introduced, now known as Act 211, ... 'requires a criminal conviction prior to forfeiture of property with some limited exceptions, preserving the fundamental notion that one is innocent until proven guilty.... Additionally, the legislation requires that forfeiture be proportional to the offence, that innocent owners are protected, forfeiture actions are properly reported and transparent, and divests the monetary incentives for departments to pursue forfeitures.'

"Stroud says civil asset forfeiture can harm innocent individuals.... 'In one case, a woman went to bail her son out,' Stroud said. 'They took a drug-sniffing dog, sniffed her money, and they seized it. Studies show that 90 percent of bills have traces of drugs on them. She was eventually able to prove she got the money legally'....

"'Frankly, civil asset forfeiture affects every American,' Craig said. “The mere fact that Wisconsin law allowed private property to be forfeited to the government without conviction was a glaring violation of the Constitution.... All citizens should care when their liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights are threatened by an overzealous government,' Craig said. 'These abusive policies could someday be used against you, despite no wrongdoing on your part.'"

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