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passed by the state legislature, LD 1521, took effect without the governor’s signature yesterday, Maine officially repealed its civil forfeiture laws, joining Nebraska, New Mexico, and North Carolina.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