Bill to stop cops from civil asset forfeiture makes its way thru CA Assembly

August 17, 2016

By Thandisizwe Chimurenga

Picture Caption: Hardworking owners of legal businesses sometimes carry large sums of cash. If cops in Cali catch them with it, it can go bye-bye without any recourse.

The ACLU of California is reporting that a bill to limit the power of police to seize personal property and keep it forever and ever, has been approved in the State Assembly and is now headed to the Senate. Senate Bill 443, first introduced in 2015 by State Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), provides individuals with stronger property rights protections by requiring a conviction in most state civil asset forfeiture cases. That’s right … due to a “loophole,” the cops can seize your “stuff” even though you may not have been charged with or convicted of a crime. A press release from the organization states:

“Today’s vote is a tremendous victory for fairness and justice,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, Criminal Justice and Drug Policy Director for the ACLU of California. “For years, the scales of justice were tipped in favor of profits and against the fundamental rights of countless Californians who were unfairly deprived of their life savings and property through civil forfeiture laws. Today, the Legislature got it right.”

Current state and federal civil asset forfeiture laws give the government permission to seize personal property, allowing law enforcement to then keep what they take. California law, however, provides greater due process protections than federal law. Federal law does not require a conviction and places the burden on defendants to prove their innocence and fight to get their assets back - at their own expense. Unfortunately, state and local law enforcement agencies can and do opt to use federal law.

The ACLU estimates that nearly $600 million from civil asset forfeitures under federal law has come into California police agencies between 2006 and 2013 alone. This is on top of all monies that most law enforcement agencies get via their city budgets, as well as grants and other fundraisers.

The ACLU has prepared a brief on what it calls “alarming” examples of abuse of civil asset forfeiture. You can check that out <>