Scoop: new civil asset forfeiture bill

  • Headlines were made early this legislative session when those from the left and right came together to support a major overhaul to the state’s civil asset forfeiture law.
  • The bill seeks to end the ability of police to seize citizens’ property absent of a criminal conviction. It also would require law enforcement to report all property seizures and how confiscated dollars are spent.
  • That legislation never really got off the ground, mostly because of pushback from the law enforcement community, which argues that asset forfeiture is an important tool for police and a deterrent to crime.
  • Now, the conservative side of the forfeiture team – The Alabama Policy Institute, The Institute for Justice and The Heritage Foundation – is going smaller, so to speak. They are backing new legislation that deals only with the reporting issue, and it has the support of the law enforcement community.
  • Rep. Arnold Mooney introduced HB518 last night and Senate sponsor Sen. Arthur Orr is expected to drop similar legislation next week.
  • Under the bill, law enforcement agencies would be required to report all civil property seizures and how proceeds are spent. This, advocates say, will take away the incentive police might have to improperly seize property.
  • Barry Matson, Executive Director of the Alabama District Attorneys Association, had this to say:

The citizens of Alabama give immense authority and power to law enforcement, district attorneys and the judiciary. In granting this power, the public has a right to demand fairness, professionalism and transparency.

Together, we have crafted a comprehensive data-collection and public reporting bill that would ensure policymakers and the public have a full and accurate picture of all aspects of the forfeiture process in Alabama.