Arizona Lawmakers to Cops: You Should Convict People Before You Take Their Stuff
Arizona is poised to require police to actually convict somebody of a crime before seizing the defendant’s property.
On Wednesday, Arizona’s House of Representatives passed H.B. 2810 by a vote of 57–2. The bill mostly eliminates civil asset forfeiture, mandating that police and prosecutors convict defendants before asking a court to take their money or other property.
Civil asset forfeiture has been sold to the public as a way of separating wealthy criminals from their ill-gotten gains and using that money to help fight crime. But the reality is very different. The “civil” component of asset forfeiture allows law enforcement to force people to surrender their assets to them, often without ever having to prove they committed a crime. Sometimes they have been able to take somebody’s property without even charging them. In many states the property goes directly to law enforcement agencies, creating a twisted incentive for police to pad their budgets by forcing forfeitures whenever possible, even with little or no evidence of wrongdoing.
The Institute for Justice, which tracks the use of civil asset forfeiture across the country, has given Arizona a D- for its forfeiture program, noting that because all of the proceeds go to law enforcement, it’s p
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