Civil asset forfeiture might be one issue where the opposite ends of the political spectrum can find agreement and Mississippi is one of the nation’s leaders on this issue.
Law enforcement agencies use civil asset forfeiture to seize property that they believe to have been used in commission of a crime. In Mississippi, an agency only needs to connect property to a crime to seize it and can use 80 percent of the proceeds from it to supplement their budgets. For a property owner to recover their seized assets, they’d have to prove in a civil court that their property wasn’t involved with a crime. They don’t even have to be convicted of a crime for their property to be seized.
Mississippi took an important first step toward transparency with civil asset forfeiture Tuesday after Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law House Bill 812. The new law will require law enforcement agencies to keep records (they weren’t required to record forfeitures previously) of all seizures, whether the owners were charged with a crime and what the agency did with the property. The state’s Bureau of Narcotics will build and maintain a website detailing all forfeitures.
The state is now the 18th to enact civil asset forfeiture reform.
This is just the first step in reforming what the Institute for Justice calls “policing for profit.” We believe transparency is essential, both to protect law enforcement from false allegations of illegal seizures and the property rights of the citizenry.
Please see related article: http://biggerpieforum.org/trump-appalled-police-asset-forfeiture/