holly mitchell

California: Bipartisan Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Dies On Assembly Floor

CivilAssetForfeitureCartoon[FreedomWorks]

Senator Holly Mitchell’s Bill, SB 443, Would Have Required Conviction Before Forfeiture

Civil asset forfeiture reform legislation authored by state Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and David Hadley (R-Torrance) failed to pass the California Assembly floor on Thursday after extraordinary efforts by law enforcement to defeat it, including personal calls to legislators’ cell phones and other scare tactics.

Despite bipartisan support and nearly unanimous votes at every previous juncture, SB 443 could not survive the Assembly floor vote on Thursday. However, the bill was granted reconsideration, meaning it can be taken up for another floor vote tomorrow, the final day of session, if the authors so choose.

SB 443, which was co-sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance, ACLU and the Institute for Justice would have required a conviction in either state or federal court before property could be permanently forfeited to local law enforcement coffers.

“We are deeply disappointed, but not surprised, by the lack of courage shown by members of the Assembly today,” said Lynne Lyman, California state director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "Apparently many of our elected representatives do not want to uphold the due process protections guaranteed to us in the constitution. Instead, they voted to continue allowing local law enforcement to circumvent the heightened protections of state law in favor of a corrupt arrangement with the federal government.”

California: Bill To Rein In Forfeiture Abuses Sails Through Senate On 38-1 Vote

CivilAssetForfeiture-BadCop

Overwhelming Bipartisan Support for Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Nationwide Gains Momentum with Sacramento Vote

Civil asset forfeiture reform legislation, authored by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), on Wednesday won nearly unanimous approval in the California State Senate with a 38-1 vote.

Co-sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance, ACLU and the Institute for Justice, SB 443 will require law enforcement agencies in the State of California to adhere to state laws regarding civil asset forfeiture, rather than transferring cases to federal prosecutors and courts where property rights and evidentiary standards are much lower.

SB 443 also calls for appointing counsel for indigent property owners and allows the recovery of attorney’s fees for successful challenges. Additionally, the bill will protect guiltless spouses and family members from loss of property, and result in increased investment in the General Fund, in courts, and in public defense for the indigent, as well as funding for law enforcement and prosecutors.

“Asset forfeiture inflicts the harsh punishments associated with criminal proceedings without the constitutional protections guaranteed by a trial," said Lynne Lyman, California state director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "In practice, this means encouraging law enforcement to engage in questionable and unethical practices under the banner of the war on drugs.

"Today’s vote is a tremendous step in the right direction,” Lyman said.

U.S.: New Report Finds Extensive Forfeiture Abuses By California Law Enforcement

AssetForfeitureCaliforniaCops[USAttorneysOffice]

With Bipartisan Support in U.S. Congress and Buoyed By New Mexico’s First-of-Its-Kind Law That Ends Civil Forfeiture, Momentum Accelerates for Reform

The Drug Policy Alliance on Tuesday launched Above the Law: An Investigation of Civil Asset Forfeiture Abuses in California, a multi-year, comprehensive look at asset forfeiture abuses in California that reveals the troubling extent to which law enforcement agencies have violated state and federal law.

Civil asset forfeiture law allows the government to seize and keep cash, cars, real estate, and any other property – even from citizens never charged with or convicted of a crime. Because these assets often go straight into the coffers of the enforcement agency, these laws have led to a perversion of police priorities, such as increasing personnel on the forfeiture unit while reducing the number of officers on patrol and in investigation units.

While civil asset forfeiture was originally conceived as an effective way to target and drain resources away from powerful criminal organizations, Above the Law discloses how these strategies and programs have now become a relied-upon source of funding for law enforcement agencies all across the state.

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