Lawmakers decide to give American citizens the right to due process.
Forbes’ Nick Sibilla reported on 4/20 that Nebraska lawmakers signed a bill designed to eliminate civil asset forfeiture and require a criminal conviction as a prerequisite for the seizure of property.
Gov. Pete Ricketts signed the bill entitled LB 1106 which passed the unicameral legislature last week by a 38 to 8 vote.
Under new laws, officials must issue a criminal conviction in order to seize property and the accusation must be an offense involving illegal drugs, child pornography or illegal gambling.
Nebraska’s civil asset forfeture regulations have been resposinble for victimizing a wide vareity of citizens from all over the state. For example, a Peruvian pastor once had $14,000 taken from him following what would have otherwise been a routine traffic stop, he eventually recovered the cash only after the ACLU intervened on his behalf.
Also, a federal appellate court last year seized $63,000 in savings from a respected Air Force veteran despite the decorated pilot never being charged with a crime.
Nebraska is now one of just nine other states that allow citizens the right to an investigation before being subjected to civil forfeiture, an astonishing fact given that the right to due process is clearly outlined in the U.S. constitution in both the fifth and fourteenth amendments. Officials say LB 1106 promises to not only enact new requirements for seizures but also greatly reduce the overall number of forfeiture cases as well.
Unfortunately, the bill introduced and signed by Senator Tommy Garrett does not affect property forfeiture. Since 2011, law enforcement and school districts have received $3 million in proceeds from property taken by the feds as a result of a 1984 amendment to the state’s constitution that allocated fifty percent of drug forfeiture funds to government agencies.
Yet LB 1106 does take aim at an even more egregious form of police profiteering. By participating in a federal forfeiture program known as “equitable sharing,” state and local agencies can move to forfeit property under federal law and receive up to 80 percent of the proceeds.
Tempted by the higher payout, police and prosecutors routinely turned to equitable sharing to federalize forfeiture cases. Between 2000 and 2013, Nebraska law enforcement collected more than $48 million in federal forfeiture funds, a report by the Institute for Justice found. A separate investigation by The Washington Post identified 889 cash seizures “from people who were not charged with a crime and without a warrant being issued” that were conducted in Nebraska since 9/11. Source
One could argue that civil asset forfeiture is one of the most profound assaults on private property rights facing Americans today, Nebraska’s new legislation should curtail some of the injustices and unconstitutional seizures its citizens have fallen victim to for decades.