The Arizona Senate has passed civil asset forfeiture reform by a huge 29-1 vote margin. The bill already sailed through the House with 57 yes votes to only 2 nays. It is an overwhelming and deserved victory for legislation that will finally protect innocent Arizonans from having their property taken by the police.
Sponsored by Rep. Travis Grantham, House Bill 2810 requires a criminal conviction for someone to permanently lose their property. If there is no crime, it remains a dangerous standard to allow the authorities to take the property of citizens.
Last year, similar legislation looked primed to pass, but Democrats in the House killed the effort, unanimously rejecting the bill.
Under current asset forfeiture laws, Arizonans can have their property seized by law enforcement without a crime having been committed. They can also lose their property if it was used in a criminal activity without their knowledge – authorities do not have to prove the property owner knew. Combine these issues with a difficult-to-navigate process for citizens trying to get their property back, and the deck is inappropriately stacked against Arizonans.
On top of the conviction requirement, reforms in HB 2810 will address these issues through transparency and more reasonable time frames for petitioning to get one’s property back.
Despite the claims of opponents, the bill will not impede prosecutors’ ability to build a case. Anything seized that is evidence in a case can be kept by the authorities, and people who flee or allowed their property to be used in a crime lose that property just like before.
The bill heads to Governor Doug Ducey for his signature. Should the Governor sign the bill, Arizona will join 15 other states who have conviction requirements. Three states, New Mexico, Nebraska, and North Carolina ended civil asset forfeiture entirely.