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California: One In 10 People Say Police Took Cash, Property Without A Conviction

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Two new surveys find overwhelming public opposition in California to laws allowing law enforcement to seize and keep a person’s cash and property without a conviction

California Legislature considers reform to rein in abuse

In a recent survey conducted by Public Policy Polling, a startling 10 percent of adults living in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties said that they had had their property taken by a police officer without being convicted of a crime. Nearly one in five (19 percent) of those living in these three counties also stated that they know someone who had experienced the same.

One of the ways in which law enforcement can legally take property or money from people in the absence of a conviction is through civil asset forfeiture, a highly controversial policy that allows law enforcement officers to seize cash or property that they suspect has been involved in criminal activity, such as drug sales.

While California law offers greater protections, federal forfeiture laws do not require that police arrest or charge a person with a crime, or convict them. If the owner does not file a claim in civil court and prevail in the case, the property is permanently lost, and the majority of the funds go to the same law enforcement agency that seized the cash or property in the first place.

California: Bipartisan Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Dies On Assembly Floor

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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

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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.

California: Prop 47 Takes Significant Step Towards Ending Mass Incarceration and War On Drugs

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Passage of Proposition 47 Will Spare Thousands From Unnecessary Time Behind Bars and Save Billions of Taxpayer Dollars

DPA: Overwhelming Support Sends Powerful National Message

California voters on Tuesday took a significant step toward ending mass incarceration and the War On Drugs by approving Proposition 47. On the heels of reforming the state’s “three strikes” law in the 2012 election, Californians overwhelmingly voted to change six low-level, nonviolent offenses – including simple drug possession – from felonies to misdemeanors.

“The overwhelming support for this reform sends a powerful message nationally, demonstrating that voters are not just ready but eager to reduce prison populations in ways that can enhance public safety,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).

“This is a win for everyone in California,” said Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Stephen Downing (Ret.), a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). “We’ll save millions keeping nonviolent drug offenders out of state prison, and those resources will be redirected toward public education, victim services, and mental health treatment programs that actually address the problems of addiction.”

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