May 19, 2020
To: Members of the Arizona House Judiciary Committee
From: Americans for Tax Reform
Re: SB 1556
Dear Chairman Allen and Members of the Judiciary Committee,
On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform and our supporters across Arizona, I urge you to support and approve Senate Bill 1556. This legislation would enact needed reforms to the state’s civil asset forfeiture system to protect the rights and property of Arizonans.
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.
Combined with a difficult-to-navigate process for citizens trying to get their property back, that includes a short 30-day window to file a claim on that property, the deck is inappropriately stacked against Arizonans.
Arizona has a strong history of protecting the constitutional rights of individuals, but is far behind other states on this issue. Currently, 19 states require a criminal conviction for forfeiture, 16 require a criminal conviction to forfeit property in civil court, and 3 have abolished forfeiture.
SB 1556 would address these problems by requiring a conviction before assets can be forfeited, with certain exceptions. After all, if there is no crime, the state should not be forfeiting an innocent owner’s property.
It also includes the due process Arizonans deserve, providing clear and reasonable timeframes for notification to the property owner, and for the owner to file a claim. It shifts the burden of proof to the state, where it belongs.
There is no excuse for taking the hard-earned property of innocent people. None. The state cannot be allowed to take people’s belongings, and trample their rights. That is theft. It is no wonder many Arizona legislators have been working hard to fix the civil asset forfeiture process.
For these reasons, we strongly urge you to pass SB 1556.
Grover G. Norquist
Americans for Tax Reform