Connecticut Latest State To Add A Conviction Requirement To Its Forfeiture Laws

from the turning-tide dept

Civil asset forfeiture continues to be curbed by legislatures around the country. Belatedly realizing the harm done to citizens by opportunistic law enforcement, lawmakers have been engaged in serious reform efforts over the past few years. Some have fallen apart on the way to approval, thanks to harmful concessions to powerful law enforcement lobbies. Other have made it through intact, potentially ending years of abuse.

Thirteen states have already added conviction requirements for forfeitures, all but eliminating the "civil" process that cuts property owners out almost completely. Connecticut has just become the fourteenth.

Late yesterday, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed HB 7146, which will require a criminal conviction to permanently confiscate property. Unlike criminal forfeiture, which targets the property owner and occurs only after a conviction, civil forfeiture sues the property itself and allows the government to permanently keep property without charging anyone with a crime.

HB 7146 will split the difference by requiring a conviction in criminal court as a prerequisite to a Connecticut state’s attorney litigating the forfeiture in civil court. The bill previously passed the House and the Senate without a single vote cast against it.

Making the law even better is the government being unable to seize anything without an accompanying arrest. From there, it must obtain a conviction to guarantee its control of the property. It must present evidence the property was used in a crime or was the proceeds of a crime, regardless of the conviction. If it can't prove this, or the arrest fails to result in a criminal conviction, the state must return the property within 14 days. This saves citizens the trouble and expense of having to litigate the return of seized property.

On the downside, the law still allows law enforcement agencies to directly profit from forfeitures, giving them control of 70% of the proceeds with minimal oversight. This increases the risk of people having the book thrown at them in court to ensure prosecutors walk away with at least a plea deal, when there's money/property on the line.

But it is a major improvement over the state's original statutes, which had resulted in 2/3 of the state's proceedings against "guilty" property being completely untied from any arrests or convictions of property owners.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 6:30pm

    One step closer to what should have been the default

    While it's certainly nice that another state has taken a step towards curbing the rampant abuse of robbery-at-badgepoint, the fact that it even needs to be addressed is a sign of a seriously warped situation.

    'You are not allowed to take someone's stuff without proof that they and the property you want to take were involved in criminal acts' should have been the baseline, the absolute minimum requirement, instead of something that actually needs to be plainly laid out via laws like this.

    It's nice that the law was passed, but the fact that it even needed to be brought up paints a rather disgusting picture of the system and how it's been twisted and abused.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 6:46pm

      Re: One step closer to what should have been the default

      "One step closer to what should have been the default"

      It WAS the default. 4th makes it pretty damn clear.
      It is one of that things that I hate President Reagan over.

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

    • icon
      Rapnel (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 8:22pm

      Re: One step closer to what should have been the default

      Drug war baby, yeah! woot! woot!

      Pretty soon it's going to be Mr. Sessions against a lot of states. If ever a cracker needed a shove ... if we only had a parrot.

      Well, I guess it's up to the states to save the country now. Or the bat man.

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

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 6:53pm

    Opposing Opinions

    It appears that the US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has a different opinion. He may get the Feds, but what about states? He does not have the power to control them.

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

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 7:43pm

    And let's hope that the courts remember that "evidence the property was used in a crime or was the proceeds of a crime" doesn't include the cops' unsupported claims of "well I don't believe the property wasn't crime-linked."

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 8:06pm

    If this is to be a thing then the property should not be seized until forfeited by court order.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 8:35pm

      Re:

      Syntax, Syntax!

      Property SHOULD be seized by court order, as per 4th amendment.

      However, forfeiture should only be under "conviction" and damn sure not court order, as per the 5th amendment.

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

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 21 Jul 2017 @ 5:09am

        Re: Re:

        A court order ought to follow the conviction in order to ensure due process. You don't want the cops cleaning you out for a misdemeanour, i.e. smoking a joint.

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

        • icon
          Bergman (profile), 23 Jul 2017 @ 6:06pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Technically, a traffic ticket is a very minor charge. When you pay a ticket instead of contesting it, that is pleading guilty.

          Whether it would count as a conviction for asset forfeiture purposes remains to be seen.

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

  • icon
    MyNameHere (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 10:25pm

    it Won't stop

    It won't stop the seizing of assets, and in theory, as long as a case is "pending" they won't have to move forward. It doesn't appear that they put a time limit on holding the "evidence".

    So they can still seize huge gobs of cash that people (oddly) wander around with, under the guise of building a criminal case against them. My guess is that it might actually take longer to get money back this way.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Simon Prophet, 20 Jul 2017 @ 1:30am

    civil asset forfeiture

    Civil asset forfeiture is a crime against humanity. I know http://www.simonprophet.com/
    Let's see Sessions go after Trump's good friend Larry Silverstein https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2A9ph-Jz7L4

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

  • identicon
    Daydream, 20 Jul 2017 @ 3:09am

    There's just one small problem; how many people are still plea-bargaining due to the lack of effective counsel?

    I recall hearing somewhere (cough cough Last Week Tonight cough) that America has a major problem with funding legal aid for accused people.
    Not enough funds, means not enough lawyers, means what few there are are underpaid and only have a few minutes, if not seconds, to work on each case. For obvious reasons, they recommend plea-bargaining on account that they just don't have time to prepare a defence.

    If this remains the case, asset robbery won't be stopped; police will keep searching and looking for cash as usual, and when they find it, they'll bring charges evidence or no evidence. The threat of legal fees and ineffective counsel will probably encourage people to plea bargain down to a suspended sentence or such, and the cops will still have a lot of money.


    ...Or, you know, maybe I'm just being cynical?

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

    • icon
      stderric (profile), 20 Jul 2017 @ 9:15am

      Re: There's just one small problem; how many people are still plea-bargaining due to the lack of effective counsel?

      Yes, you're being cynical. You're also being realistic and rational. Depressive realism is no longer considered a mood disorder: now it's just called 'a safe bet.'

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

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 23 Jul 2017 @ 6:09pm

      Re: There's just one small problem; how many people are still plea-bargaining due to the lack of effective counsel?

      Something like 97% of people accused of a crime never see a judge except to answer "yes, your honor" when the judge asks if they really did agree to the plea deal the prosecution just presented.

      Only 3% actually go to trial in the US these days.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jul 2017 @ 3:36am

    To really protect the public 100% of recovered money should go to a victim of crime fund. this will kill any conduct of interest for police departments. And proceeds of crime will go to where it should go, compensation to the victim's of crime

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

    • identicon
      Annonymouse, 20 Jul 2017 @ 4:28am

      Response to: Anonymous Coward on Jul 20th, 2017 @ 3:36am

      Haha and how quickly will the badges be deemed to be victims, well on top of the usual corruption in such agencies.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Jul 2017 @ 6:09pm

    Here in Connecticut, we get a lot of people wandering the state to visit and drop cash in our many, many antique shops. We have towns where the main drag is comprise of little more than "antique row".

    I wonder if this law was the result of the cops nabbing the wrong rich tourist's sack of antique-fund cash.

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Techdirt Logo Gear
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.