Americans for Tax Reform congratulates Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) for passing sweeping provisions to end civil asset forfeiture yesterday. The bill, SB 161, was introduced by Senator Mike Hough (R-Frederick), among others, and marks a major victory for property rights advocates.

Maryland’s effort to end asset forfeiture comes as Congress continues to grapple with the issue. Yesterday, Rep. Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) introduced the DUE PROCESS Act which adds protections for innocent property owners and ensuring that property owners can contest wrongful seizures. It requires the government to give property back to owners and makes it easier for them to be heard in court. By allowing property owners to an initial hearing, the DUE PROCESS Act gives owners an opportunity to physically retrieve their confiscated property early in the process if it was not lawfully seized. It also places a higher burden of proof on the federal government, further benefiting property owners.

Unfortunately, it does not address equitable sharing, a method by which local law enforcement can avoid state restrictions by using more lenient federal forfeiture rules.

Hogan’s actions highlight a clear problem facing Maryland. According to the Institute for Justice’s Policing for Profit report, Maryland’s civil asset forfeiture laws, “suffer from a troubling lack of transparency: Agencies are not required to track or report their forfeitures.” Also, the burden of proof in Maryland it was the duty of the property owner to prove the innocence of his property rather than having the government prove the guilt of the accused.

The Maryland reform joins 9 states who reformed their asset forfeiture laws, noted by the Center for Public Integrity. 11 more bills are currently pending in different 7 states.

It is clear that the concept of civil asset forfeiture is damaging to the property rights of all Americans. Not only does it allow law enforcement to seize property without a warrant, but it does not require that they prove why they took it or if criminal activity occurred. Legislators around the country are beginning to notice.

ATR applauds Maryland lawmakers and Hogan for championing the rights of innocent Marylanders.