Florida Senate Bill 1044 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee today with a 5-2 vote today. The proposal would attempt to fix Florida’s lax civil asset forfeiture rules in favor of stricter protections for property rights and due process. State law enforcement receives close to $20 million per year in confiscations through asset forfeiture thanks in part to some of the weakest protections against arbitrary forfeiture in the nation. Currently, agencies are not required to report the amount of assets seized leading to a blurred system that violates citizens’ rights.
Under the new law, law enforcement would be required to have a conviction of a crime and proof that the property in question was connected to the crime for assets to be seized. The legislature should now take up forfeiture reform and take their place among the states willing to put their residents first.
Read the full endorsement below:
Dear Chairman Diaz,
State legislatures across America have been changing their laws concerning the controversial practice of “civil asset forfeiture.” Now, Florida has an opportunity to be a national standard-bearer on due process protections. Americans for Tax Reform is proud to endorse SB 1044—a bipartisan bill that would secure the property rights of Floridians from arbitrary seizures from overzealous authorities.
Florida has some of the weakest protections for property in the nation—leading to a staggering $20 million per year in confiscations through asset forfeiture. Since agencies are not required to report the actual amount of assets seized, the full amount is unclear.
This is unacceptable.
Agencies should not have the ability to fund themselves by confiscating the property of innocent individuals. The founders established Fifth Amendment due process protections for this very reason.
Civil asset forfeiture is the kind of system which undermines the trust between hardworking law enforcement and their communities. By leaving the door open to arbitrary abuse, mutual trust between communities and the men and women tasked to protect them is compromised. In a country based on the rule of law, no one should fear that they could be deprived of their property without the opportunity to defend themselves.
Furthermore, the perverse incentive created by civil forfeiture encourages law enforcement to profiteer from the communities rather than fight crime as they were meant to do.
Senate Bill 1044, written by senators Jeff Brandes, Joe Negron, and Jeff Clemens allows for asset forfeiture but under the necessary conditions required to protect the rights of the innocent. The new law would require both a conviction of a crime and proof that the property in question was connected to the crime for assets to be seized and appropriated.
I encourage the both the committee and the legislature to support SB 1044. Civil asset forfeiture was an old idea poorly implemented and damaging to both police departments and communities. With this legislation, Florida can be considered a national leader in due process and civil rights. If you have any questions, please contact ATR’s criminal justice manager Jorge Marin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grover G. Norquist
Americans for Tax Reform