Idaho Governor Says Cops Matter More Than The Public Or Its Representatives, Vetoes Forfeiture Reform Bill

from the status-quo,-voters dept

The governor of Idaho doesn't care about his constituents. State legislators had successfully pushed through an asset forfeiture reform bill with overwhelming support, but Governor Butch Otter vetoed it on April 6th. (h/t Ed Krayewski at Reason)

The bill ran into some law enforcement resistance on its way to being passed. A 58-10 vote sent it to the governor's desk over the concerns of law enforcement, who apparently felt that law enforcement via asset forfeiture would just be too difficult if some form of actual due process was recognized.

While Reps. Rubel and Harris did work with some law-enforcement groups while drafting the bill and these organizations decided not to oppose it, other police organizations came out against the bill, worried it would put too many restrictions on their ability to seize drug dealers’ ill-gotten gains or the cash they could use to commit further crimes.

Apparently, those concerns were indulged by Governor Otter. His veto statement [PDF] makes the dubious assertion that Idaho law enforcement has never abused the process.

There have been no allegations that Idaho law enforcement officers or agencies are illegally or inappropriately seizing property from alleged drug traffickers. Its sponsors contend that the measure is aimed at preventing improper forfeiture of assets in the future, but there is no evidence to suggest that such a problem is imminent.

The absence of allegations is not the absence of abuse. Fighting forfeiture is prohibitively expensive and takes place in a closed judicial system that pretty much guarantees at least partial failure. Idaho isn't the worst of the worst -- not according to the Institute for Justice's grading -- but scoring a "C" is hardly an exoneration of the process. A "C" rating still stacks the deck in favor of law enforcement:

Although Idaho appears to pursue forfeitures against property owners only modestly, its civil forfeiture laws still put the property of ordinary citizens at risk. To forfeit your property, the state only needs to show that it was more likely than not that your property was used in some criminal activity—the legal standard of preponderance of the evidence. To recover seized property, an innocent owner bears the burden of proving his innocence. Moreover, law enforcement in Idaho reaps all of the rewards of civil forfeitures—they keep 100 percent of all funds and face no requirement to report data on forfeiture use and proceeds.

Otter also cited "public safety" as a reason for vetoing the reform bill. Somehow, seizing cash but letting suspected criminals go free makes us safer.

[T]here is a legitimate public safety concern associated with allowing those charged with drug crimes to keep money, cars and other civil assets that may be connected with those crimes. Not the least of these concerns is the potential for evidence to disappear or be tampered with.

Which is bullshit. If cops aren't seeking convictions, they don't need evidence. Forfeited items don't go into an evidence locker. It's converted for use by the agency seizing it -- 100% of it as allowed by Idaho law. If there's no prosecution pending, it's not evidence. It's just assets, but ones now in the hands of someone other than their original owner. The governor is deliberately muddying the waters (or he truly doesn't understand the subject matter) by conflating criminal asset forfeiture with the more popular version -- civil asset forfeiture -- which has nothing to do with the "criminal charges" Otter leads off with.

But where Governor Otter's statement really shows his disdain for everyone but a small percentage of his constituents is this part:

The fact that this bipartisan legislation was overwhelmingly approved by both the House and Senate is outweighed by compelling opposition from law enforcement and the absence of any benefit to law-abiding citizens from its enactment.

The people and their representatives don't matter, not when weighed against the apparently onerous requirement that law enforcement seek convictions when seizing property. The benefit Otter can't see is intangible: conviction requirements eliminate fishing expeditions by law enforcement officers who may be more interested in assets than convictions. That does make the public safer, but the public's top representative only represents law enforcement interests.


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 11 Apr 2017 @ 1:26pm

    Wrong on multiple levels

    There have been no allegations that Idaho law enforcement officers or agencies are illegally or inappropriately seizing property from alleged drug traffickers. Its sponsors contend that the measure is aimed at preventing improper forfeiture of assets in the future, but there is no evidence to suggest that such a problem is imminent.

    In which case the bill wouldn't have hampered police in Idaho in the slightest. It's like a bill specifically prohibiting police from using refurbished WW2 bombers for surveillance, that's only going to be a problem for them if they plan on doing so.

    Of course as seems to be the case the governor doesn't consider stealing someone's stuff without a conviction a 'problem' or 'abuse' so long as it's the police doing the stealing, so that's likely what he means when he says that there's no evidence of a 'problem'.

    The fact that this bipartisan legislation was overwhelmingly approved by both the House and Senate is outweighed by compelling opposition from law enforcement and the absence of any benefit to law-abiding citizens from its enactment.

    So 'Not having your stuff stolen from you without a conviction of guilt' apparently isn't a 'benefit to law-abiding citizens' to him. Good to know where his priorities lie.

    Given the overwhelming support the bill had(58-10) I would hope that they can override his veto and shove it into place regardless.

    "You don't get to steal anything that catches your eye just because you happen to have a badge" isn't something that should even be need to be said, that it needs to be explicitly spelled out in the law is beyond absurd, and hopefully they can override this tool of a governor in order to at least start to address the problem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2017 @ 3:08pm

      Re: Wrong on multiple levels

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2017 @ 6:57pm

        Re: Re: Wrong on multiple levels

        But will they?

        We two things going on here.

        Governor could be playing games by vetoing even though he knows they can override to stay friendly with law enforcement, if they do override.

        Idaho legislature could be looking to win brownie points with citizens by trying to pass the law, but not really willing to override a veto and backing down.

        Let's see what shakes down? Never trust that a politician is doing something beneficial for citizens, because they usually are not, unless they are saving their hide from losing the next election.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 12 Apr 2017 @ 2:21am

      Re: Wrong on multiple levels

      As corrupt as our system is these days you would be hard pressed to find any elected member of the executive branch who has not been involved in any way with a violation of rights under color of law.

      Since elected officials are only rarely the boots on the ground for such a rights violation, those violations are always felonies. If they used their personal wealth even peripherally to get elected, then it is a certainty -- not merely probable cause -- that their wealth assisted them in being able to commit that crime.

      The solution to people like Governor Otter is clear -- they have never been abused by police, and therefore believe police when they claim accusations against them are unfounded. So find a sympathetic prosecutor, use all the tools in the prosecutorial toolbox, and seize the Governor's assets, thereby proving that even the finest and most upstanding citizens in the state can lose their bank accounts, cars and homes without it ever being suggested that criminal charges be filed against them.

      And then, the Governor will join the growing list of people who know why civil asset forfeiture laws are a very bad idea.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    hij (profile), 11 Apr 2017 @ 3:00pm

    Law abiding or just complacent?

    and the absence of any benefit to law-abiding citizens from its enactment.

    I always get a little nervous when politicians decide a prior who is following the law and who is not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2017 @ 3:03pm

    With a 58-10 vote, could they not override the governor's veto? Or does Idaho State Law work differently?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2017 @ 3:26pm

    If the police won't obey the law, why should anybody else?

    This question really does need an answer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Thad, 11 Apr 2017 @ 4:44pm

    I'm in Arizona and our legislature just passed restrictions on asset forfeiture too. Governor Ducey hasn't signaled whether he'll sign or veto, but it passed the Senate unanimously and the House with only one "nay", so there are more than enough votes for an override.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Daydream, 11 Apr 2017 @ 7:44pm

    What did the 10 that voted nay say?

    What were their reasons for voting against the bill? Do they also believe that there's no evidence of wrongdoing by the police?


    ...I was going to ask, whoever here in the comments section lives in Idaho, to start a poster campaign.
    Start by putting up posters advertising for people who have been victims of a police robbery, ask them to provide their testimony, then put up written posters of their testimony around courthouses and police stations...

    But then, I thought that if someone did that, the police might track them down and arrest them, or worse.
    Am I just paranoid/extra-cynical, or is that the reality in Idaho today?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 11 Apr 2017 @ 8:24pm

    _There have been no allegations that Idaho law enforcement officers or agencies are illegally or inappropriately seizing property from alleged drug traffickers._

    Well duh. Of course not. What is the percentage of seizures from drug traffickers out of the total quantity of seizures? Probably not much.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 11 Apr 2017 @ 9:19pm

    Perhaps the problem is the public who can't imagine the police would ever do anything bad.
    A police union on the attack against a governor might hurt his reelection chances, so staying in office is the top priority.

    We can just pretend that everything the cops steal was only from bad people who were going to do bad things, so bad they can't even bring charges against them once they steal the property.

    People really need to get out of the bubble mentality of it'll never happen to me because I am a 'Good Person™' because you are 1 bank deposit or nice car a cop wants away from ending up in this nightmare system.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 11 Apr 2017 @ 10:37pm

    This isn't "cops matter more than the public"

    It's "cops' private coffers matter more than the law, and it should stay that way".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2017 @ 10:35am

    >> they keep 100 percent of all funds and face no requirement >> to report data on forfeiture use and proceeds.

    News at 11: Governor in cash kickback shock

    Explains the multiple houses and buildings he owns which cost WAY above his salary or means to repay doesn't it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2017 @ 11:49am

    I'm willing to bet the Idaho politicians who back asset forfeiture tell their constituents about how committed they are to a small government. I bet some of them call themselves 'libertarians' and 'constitutional conservatives.'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 12 Apr 2017 @ 12:36pm

    Tyranny in Action

    Idaho Governor Clement Leroy "Butch" Otter is a complete disgrace.

    Upon what Constitution did he swear his oath of office?

    Idahoans would be well served in voting this badge licking fraction of an American out of office before he can do them more harm.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    coward, 12 Apr 2017 @ 2:09pm

    an argument could be made that we, as a community, are less safe due to the asset forfeiture law on the books.

    Cops (humans) could decide to let someone go if they have a good amount of money or property the cops can use to add to their budget and let the person off the hook.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 12 Apr 2017 @ 3:01pm

      Re:

      Cops (humans) could decide to let someone go if they have a good amount of money or property the cops can use to add to their budget and let the person off the hook.

      No 'could' about it, that's pretty much exactly what they do. They aren't interested in the (accused) criminals, all they want is the money.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Apr 2017 @ 3:44pm

    "Idaho Governor Says Crooked Cops Matter More Than The Public Or Its Representatives, Vetoes Forfeiture Reform Bill."
    Guess I should stop eating potato products. If he gets re-elected it is the public's own damned fault. He had better not come to our state, he can forfeit every dime in his bloody pockets, and quite possibly in his bank account as well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 12 Apr 2017 @ 5:53pm

      Re:

      If he gets re-elected it is the public's own damned fault.

      Well, and systemic biases like incumbent retention and FPTP voting.

      Idaho hasn't elected a Democratic governor since 1990 (and hasn't elected one to a first term since '86). I wouldn't count on that changing in '18.

      But he won the Republican primary in '14 with less than an 8-point lead over the guy who came in second. That's a strong lead but it's not an overwhelming one; it's entirely possible that a strong challenger could beat him next time.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Simon Prophet, 12 Apr 2017 @ 11:36pm

    civil asset forfeiture

    America needs Otter because a lot of law enforcement run away when its dangerous but you can see the Otter is not afraid. Please Mr Otter go after the suspect that I mention in my video but be careful because they are also suspected of having murdered people so you might also get murdered but I'm sure you'll do the right thing.
    https://youtu.be/d634wEZPImI

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2017 @ 12:59am

    There is no evidence that we are abusing our assumptions of your guilty posessions

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2017 @ 5:20pm

    Cops matter more for those in power. Obviously.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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