Maine Legislature Ends Civil Asset Forfeiture In The State

from the looks-like-law-enforcement-will-have-to-do-some-actual-work-going-forward dept

The state of Maine recently enacted the strictest facial recognition limitations in the country, prohibiting the use of the tech in most areas of the government and preventing state law enforcement from acquiring it. The tech can still be used, but all searches must be run through either the FBI or the state’s database via the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Citizens who believe they’ve been unlawfully subjected to facial recognition tech can sue state agencies for violations of the law.

Maine continues to increase protections for its residents. As C.J. Ciaramella reports for Reason, the state has just ended civil asset forfeiture.

Maine became the fourth state in the nation to abolish civil asset forfeiture, a practice where law enforcement can seize property if they suspect it is connected to criminal activity, even if the owner is not convicted of a crime.

After a bill passed by the state legislature, LD 1521, took effect without the governor’s signature yesterday, Maine officially repealed its civil forfeiture laws, joining Nebraska, New Mexico, and North Carolina.

This repeal follows years of abuse by law enforcement agencies in the state. More than three decades ago, the state attempted to rein this in by passing a law that removed some of forfeiture’s perverse incentives by directing a portion of seized assets to be deposited in the state’s general fund. Despite this mandate, a review of the program found the state had been the recipient of only a single deposit of $4,335 since 2010.

Reporting requirements imposed on the Department of Public Safety were also ignored, making it difficult to tell how much money state agencies had netted from forfeiture or how often these agencies had chosen to ignore the fund-sharing mandate.

This new law makes the only acceptable form of forfeiture in the state criminal asset forfeiture, which ties the forfeiture of seized assets to convictions. The law also forbids state and local agencies from trying to avoid these restrictions by inviting the feds along for the ride.

Unless seized property under this section includes United States currency in excess of $100,000, a law enforcement agency, prosecuting authority, state agency, county or municipality may not enter into an agreement to transfer or refer property seized under this section to a federal agency directly, indirectly, through adoption, through an intergovernmental joint task force or by other means that circumvent the provisions of this section.

It also reaffirms the Department of Public Safety’s reporting requirements, mandating the posting of forfeiture records quarterly on a publicly-accessible website. Hopefully the state legislature will take its oversight position more seriously this time around to ensure the DPS actually does the reporting it’s supposed to, rather than ignore its noncompliance for another three decades.

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Comments on “Maine Legislature Ends Civil Asset Forfeiture In The State”

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'If we can't profit from it what's the point?'

If they can no longer profit from robbing the citizenry blind I suspect that the ‘super-duper important, vital for keeping criminals in check’ robbery at badge-point numbers will positively plummet nearly overnight, assuming of course the state cracks down hard enough when the police try to ignore the law and make clear to them that no, it’s not an optional change they can ignore.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

This highway robbery by LEOs has been going on a long time. Should long ago been ruled illegal by every state in the union, as being a legal hold up.

You know it’s twisted when someone is not charged with a crime but happens to have money on them and the money is guilty of something. You know someone had to spend a lot of time to come up with that one and then convince the rest to go along with this new robbery.

And you wonder why people don’t call the police so much anymore? Between those being murdered in their homes and robbed on the highways? It is these very things that have made so much of the public believe cops are not trustworthy and bring more troubles than they take care of.

TabV says:

Re: Should long ago been ruled illegal

Civil Asset Forfeiture is a bizarre aspect of the modern American "justice" system.
A web of these laws originated in the 1970 U.S. Congress, as part of a huge unconstitutional moral crusade… known as the War on Drugs
Police were eventually granted very broad discretionary authority to seize any assets/money that they suspected were related to illicit drug trafficking.
Major police abuses of this supposed authority snowballed and are still routine practice today.

SCOTUS and lower courts looked the other way, while somehow failing to notice the 4th 5th 7th 8th Amendments.
SCOTUS had originally ruled that civil forfeiture was ‘necessary’ to successfully enforce piracy, customs and admiralty law. That ruling directly violates Bill of Rights.

Civil Asset Forfeiture is based on the phony legal premise that a physical object can be de facto charged with a statutory offense and immediately arrested/seized, even if that object’s owner had absolutely nothing to do with any legal offense.

Anonymous Coward says:

Maine is a fascinating state I really need to visit one of these days. Their last governor would have fit in just fine in any Southern state, if only for his affinity for claiming blacks from other states were coming to Maine to slang dope to kids and maybe impregnate your daughter. Yet then they turn around, get a Democratic governor who is okay with law enforcement reform, and they’re passing all sorts of new restrictions the former would never have tolerated. I can’t quite figure out what exactly the people of Maine want.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
David says:

Re: Re:

I can’t quite figure out what exactly the people of Maine want.

Democracy does not reflect "the people" in general, merely a majority’s pick of the politicians on offer. If you read the political C.V. of Susan Collins, one of the longest-serving senators ever, you’ll find that sorting her into the "Republican" drawer is falling significantly short of her political positions.

It’s a rather problematic development that Republicans these days by and large are defined by being pro-Trump (or doomed), including supporting his alternate realities with just minor variation in shamelessness. Probably one of the most appalling examples is Stefanik’s rise to power on the hot airs of Trump, becoming the third-ranked House Republican without bringing any discernible political direction other than Trump sycophancy.

In contrast, Maine appears to have a comparatively sane and competitive political landscape actually giving its citizens complex alternatives to choose from which they avail themselves of.

Frankly, I find that a lot more appealing than what one sees in much of the rest of the country.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Democracy does not reflect "the people" in general, merely a majority’s pick of the politicians on offer."

…quite correct on myth of Democracy. but mistaken that the ‘Majority’ ever chooses anything in American elections.
99.6% of elected government officials take office without a majority vote of their formal Electorate.

Susan Collins has never even come close to receiving an actual majority approval from the eligible voters of Maine.
It’s all political theater, but it firmly proves that politicjans can fool enought of the people enough of the time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Need citation

yeah, that percentage is suspect — true # is likely 100%.

But do simple online check with your home state Elections Offices for any elected official jn any election; simply divide the # of votes received by the winning candidate … by the VEP (Vote Eliglble Population/Electorate) for that Election District.
Result will be percentage of citizens who actually endorsed that official democratically.

US Presidential Elections are easy to analyze by total popular vote (the Electoral College complication doesn’ change the basic point)
In 2020, 66% of the American Electorate did not vote for Biden, which is typical for all our Presidential elections.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Must be nice to pick and choose which laws you follow.
We don’t HAVE to report on every citizen we robbed.

One might want to remind these soon to be former officers that a badge requires they follow all the laws & as they were not in compliance they were in fact thieves with badges using their office to rob people. Willing to bet there are many people still waiting to be made whole, but the paperwork got lost… betcha the paperwork turns up once they start arresting them for theft.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
K`Tetch (profile) says:

Reporting requirements can be fixed easily.

"Any seizure not promptly reported will be considered illegal. Items seized will be returned to the owner, and felony theft charges will be filed against those responsible for the action. "

Because if it’s not reported, it’s not fully completing the requirements for a seizure. And if it’s not a properly done seizure, then it’s theft, and should be prosecuted accordingly.

David says:

Re: Re:

Because if it’s not reported, it’s not fully completing the requirements for a seizure. And if it’s not a properly done seizure, then it’s theft, and should be prosecuted accordingly.

For a felony, you need intent, and particularly if the responsibilities of seizure and reporting are distributed across different people and/or opportunities, that doesn’t reach the threshold of theft, like not every unpaid bill or undelivered service amounts to theft or fraud.

That’s not overly satisfying if you are at the receiving (or rather giving) end of the rancid transaction, but there shouldn’t be double standards. In either direction, of course.

K`Tetch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

If they couldn’t follow the reporting restrictions, then they have shown ‘intent’. It’s not like ‘oh that stuff we seized accidentally fell in my pocket". They intended to take it, and didn’t follow the legal proceedures to get those things.

And no, it is not double standards, to hold those taking property to the highest of standards.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Still problems left behind.

If I’m reading the law correctly:
They can forfeit firearms and “dangerous weapons”, what ever those are, if found in a search even if the firearm was not connected to crime?

They can still take your stuff if you take a grant of immunity in exchange for…?

If the suspect dies? Without conviction?

It’s definitely a major improvement but it could still be better.

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