Will Alabama Reform Civil Forfeiture?

Date: February 27, 2018

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If Senate Bill 213 is approved, Alabama would join a long list of states that have tackled the bipartisan issue of civil forfeiture after an overwhelming majority of Americans have expressed opposition to the practice.

Under current law, Alabama law enforcement officers can seize property from individuals based solely on their suspicion that an individual has broken the law and not upon conviction of a crime. SB 213 would eliminate civil asset forfeiture if there isn’t a criminal conviction. It would also establish a clear process through which innocent individuals can challenge civil asset forfeiture and would require all agencies to report all asset seizures and release information about how the proceeds are spent.

Twenty-five other states have already reformed their civil forfeiture laws, 14 states now require a criminal conviction for most or all forfeiture cases, 15 states require the government to bear the burden of proof for innocent owner claims, and seven states have passed anti-circumvention legislation to close the equitable-sharing loophole. Three states—Nebraska, New Mexico, and North Carolina—have abolished civil forfeiture entirely.

SB 213 is currently pending on the Senate Calendar after passing the Senate Judiciary Committee on a voice vote.


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