Today, Americans for Tax Reform endorsed California’s Senate Bill 443. California currently protects against abuses of the asset forfeiture system, but leaves open a massive loophole which is consistently exploited.
Civil asset forfeiture is a practice used by law enforcement to confiscate the property of individuals they deem guilty of a crime. In many cases, there is no warrant, conviction, or due process. The confiscating agency then keeps the proceeds and the property owner is left with little recourse. Though California has in-state protections against this abuse, local agencies can still go around these protections by teaming up with federal authorities and use their own less stringent standards while still keeping up to 80 percent of the proceeds.
SB 443 would close that loophole by, among other things, requiring an underlying conviction before local police can receive proceeds from the federal government’s fund. See the entire letter here. Below are excerpts from the endorsement:
“Dear Senator Jackson,
On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform and taxpayers everywhere, I am writing to you to express my strong support of Senate Bill 443. The proposed legislation would give California some of the strongest protections in the nation against civil asset forfeiture abuses.
Currently, California police can use federal loopholes to circumvent state law in asset forfeiture cases, profiting from the very procedures state rules protect citizens against. Equitable sharing is the mechanism by which local law enforcement can use federal rules to complete a civil asset forfeiture case while profiting without going through state-imposed rules. In America, the Fourth and Fifth Amendments are supposed to protect our due process and property rights, civil asset forfeiture in its current form undermines these principles. This status quo in the Golden State is unacceptable.
SB 443 would make sure that more forfeiture cases stay in California courts, requiring a conviction in a state court before local agencies can collect any proceeds from federal equitable sharing funds. This way, any time California police cooperates with federal authorities, they will also be subject to the same guidelines as would be required in a state proceeding…
… On March 28th the federal government announced a resumption of their equitable sharing program payments. A brief reprieve from the profit incentives provided by civil asset forfeiture came to an end, demonstrating the need for legislative action to fix the equitable sharing loophole…
…I implore your colleagues to extend their own support for this important legislation. For more information, please contact Jorge Marin in my office at [email protected].
Grover G. Norquist, President
Americans for Tax Reform