Arkansas Senate Unanimously Approves A Conviction Requirement For Asset Forfeiture

from the limited-good-news,-everyone! dept

Some more good news about asset forfeiture comes our way, courtesy of Lauren Krisai. It appears the Arkansas senate overwhelmingly agrees the abusive state of forfeiture it oversees cannot continue. The state senate unanimously passed an asset forfeiture reform bill that would institute a conviction requirement for seized assets, preventing law enforcement from policing for profit.

The bill would basically outlaw civil asset forfeiture in its current form, replacing it with criminal asset forfeiture. And it would prevent cops from using rinky-dink criminal charges to take property away from state residents.

There shall be no civil judgment under this subchapter and no property shall be forfeited unless the person from whom the property is seized is convicted of a felony offense that related to the property being seized and that permits the forfeiture of the property.

Unfortunately, it does contain a couple of loopholes. First, law enforcement can convert this back to civil asset forfeiture if it can show the person never responded to the civil complaint against their property. Tying this to a conviction requirement should make this tougher to exploit, seeing as a person dealing with a criminal complaint will probably be apprised of the state’s desire to take their property.

Second, it still allows local law enforcement to take advantage of the federal government’s equitable sharing program to bypass the new restrictions. The Tenth Amendment Center points out the state took a shot at closing this loophole with an earlier law. This is what the state’s partially-closed loophole looks like:

(1) No state or local law enforcement agency may transfer any property seized by the state or local agency to any federal entity for forfeiture under federal law unless the circuit court having jurisdiction over the property enters an order, upon petition by the prosecuting attorney, authorizing the property to be transferred to the federal entity.

(2) The transfer shall not be approved unless it reasonably appears that the activity giving rise to the investigation or seizure involves more than one (1) state or the nature of the investigation or seizure would be better pursued under federal law.

Given that most seizures are performed by “drug interdiction units” or whatever, exploiting the federal loophole is as easy as claiming the property seized is part of a larger drug cartel’s operations. Almost every state drug charge has a federal equivalent, so if local cops don’t want to pursue a conviction, they can give the feds a cut of the seizure to bypass any state-level conviction requirements.

As the Institute for Justice notes, Arkansas has some of the country’s worst forfeiture laws. And this legislative attempt to close the federal loophole has had zero negative effects on local law enforcement’s ability to turn vague claims about drugs into cop shop petty cash.

Arkansas law enforcement received $27 million in DOJ equitable sharing proceeds between 2000 and 2013, which equates to roughly $1.9 million each calendar year. And these proceeds have been increasing steadily over the years, from a few hundred thousand dollars a year in the early 2000s to over $3 million in 2013.

If Arkansas legislators really want to end forfeiture abuse, they’ll also need to address equitable sharing. Until that loophole undergoes further restrictions, it will be business as usual in the state. Cops would rather have 80% of something than 100% of the nothing they’ll get if they feel they can’t obtain a felony conviction.

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Comments on “Arkansas Senate Unanimously Approves A Conviction Requirement For Asset Forfeiture”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: federal loophole

Given the arguments between those that wanted an imperial government and those that wanted a more democratic version, I would recommend that none of those brought back not be given a chance to talk to any politician before their testimony. In fact, they should be limited to review only the legislative history of the last, oh say 50 years or so, and not allowed to listen to any rhetoric prior to their speech. That would include not giving the reasons legislation’s were proposed, only the results.

Then, as a follow up, give them access to the politicians and the rhetoric and do a second segment where their impugned perspectives are then recorded.

The differences could be significant. And eye opening…well not for some of us, but for many of us. The howling from those that seek power and control would exceed anything the loudest rock concert or jet airplanes could produce.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: federal loophole

They might reconsider some of the things they left out of the Constitution, such as privacy, and they might have some different thoughts about other things that were not included in the original document, which leaves out all of the amendments, but includes the concept that some people are only three fifths of a person, even though they owned some of those 3/5’s persons at that time.

In fact, just reading those amendments might make them reconsider the original document, and after some discussion and deliberation they might agree that there were some things missed in their original efforts. Or not. Each side of the debate held very strong beliefs, and in a short time, without a complete history of their conclusions, they might or might not change their minds.

Then again, one side might still think an imperial style of government would have been better. That is until they looked at what has happened in the UK.

It is hard to get people off their ideology if beliefs are strongly held, whether those beliefs are rational or not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: federal loophole

the Constitution … includes the concept that some people are only three fifths of a person

No, that’s not what it says, and the meaning of what it actually does say is almost the exact opposite of what you’re insinuating here. It was meant to reduce their oppression, not their personhood.

What it says is that for the purpose of counting population for representation in the House of Representatives, slaves get counted as 3/5. Why? Because the slave states wanted them counted as a "full person" to increase their count and therefore their influence in the halls of power, while the abolitionists quite reasonably pointed out that it would be unreasonable and hypocritical to have them counted for "representation" in a system where the Representatives that came out of it would not in fact be representing their interests, but rather those of their oppressors, and therefore they should be counted at 0.

The value of 3/5 was eventually agreed upon by everyone and liked by nobody, which is why it’s known as "the three-fifths compromise."

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 federal loophole

It was meant to reduce their oppression, not their personhood

I mean sure, in the sense that being considered not a person at all is technically (in some esoteric, deeply philosophical sense for which the oppressed person in question cares not at all) a lower form of oppression than being considered a literal extension of another person.

Though regardless of what it "meant" to do, it "reduced their oppression" by explicitly reducing their personhood. Whether that was better than the alternatives is, of course, up to whoever is looking at it, as nobody who was affected by the decision at the time is still alive and (as far as I know) didn’t leave any messages behind about what they thought of it (or if they knew about it at all).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 federal loophole

Really it could have ended slavery decades earlier without the dishonest and hypocritical slight of hand – less representation would weaken slaveholder power. Although the heavy-handedness of the fugitive slave act probably turned more people against them because they didn’t want to be drafted into slave hunts for rural twits with delusions of aristocracy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: federal loophole

‘What makes you think they would have any good ideas?’

Exactly.. they’ve been laying in the ground for two and a half centuries! Some might want some cocaine to freshen up a bit! And what will they think about the Judicial branch of government making laws? And why do those with their faces on our money look so tight lipped? They must have gone to their graves with some mighty secrets!

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