Model Bill Would Revoke the State's License to Steal


Today the Institute for Justice and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers unveiled "model state legislation" that abolishes the practice of civil asset forfeiture by requiring the government to convict people before taking property linked to their alleged crimes. The bill (PDF) cuts to the heart of the injustices associated with forfeiture laws that bizarrely accuse the property, rather than its owner, of wrongdoing. Even when states officially allow innocent owners to reclaim their property, the process is often so cumbersome and expensive that they surrender to state-sanctioned theft. Furthermore, states typically allow the law enforcement agencies that initiate a forfeiture to keep much or all of the proceeds for their budgets, giving police and prosecutors an incentive to target people based on the value of their property rather the seriousness of their crimes. The I.J./NACDL would do away with that practice as well.

Despite reforms prompted by numerous reports of outrageous forfeiture abuses, a 2010 I.J. study, Policing for Profit, gave only three states—Maine, North Dakota, and Vermont—a grade of B or better.  For a sense of how tenacious the resistance to reform has been, have a look at these three snapshots from Reason:

May 1990 (PDF): "United States v. One Assortment of 89 Firearms: Drug Warriors Are Using an Obscure Medieval Legal Doctrine to Sweep Aside Property Rights and Due Process," by Stefan B. Herpel

August/September 1993: "Ill-Gotten Gains: Police and Prosecutors Have Their Own Reasons to Oppose Forfeiture Law Reform," by Richard Miniter

February 2010: "The Forfeiture Racket: Police and Prosecutors Won't Give Up Their License to Steal," by Radley Balko

More on asset forfeiture here.

NEXT: BHL Update: "Make the Howlers Shut Up"!

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27 responses to “Model Bill Would Revoke the State's License to Steal

  1. I hope the IJ has extra operators on hand to handle all of the calls from state legislatures that will be rushing to implement these changes.

  2. joe from Lowell says:
    September 16th, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Don't get suckered by the IJ. They seize on cute, fuzzy poster boys in order to push radical changes to the law in the service of corporate deregulation.

    "Simply put, the government is not allowed to require people to get a license in order to talk."

    Simply put, this outfit is committed to eliminating the distinction between commercial speech and individual speech.

    1. I don't think we need a reminder of just how much of a mendacious, sniveling little partisan shit joe was. We all remember.

      1. It's for the younglings, Darth Episiarch.

        1. Your lack of faith disturbs me, NutraSweet.

        2. How fucked up is Lucas to have a bunch of kids murdered in what is, in many respects, a kids' movie?

          1. Well, my issue is: Jar Jar or Kid murder. Pick one, neckbeard.

            1. I present the world with a third option: No kid-murder or Jamaican alien.

              1. How about having Jar-Jar and his children brutally murdered? It's the best of both worlds.

                1. No, no, you're doing it wrong.

                  Here's what I propose. The prequel films are eliminated by a new movie, where they turn out to be a bad dream. In fact, the bad dream started with the battle on Kashyyyk where the second Death Star was destroyed and where Luke turned his dad back to the Light Side. All of this is dealt with in the first five minutes of the film, which then becomes a sequel to the original films.

                  1. Yes, but how do you deal with the fact that the original films were really shitty too? Do you make them a dream at the beginning of the trilogy after next?

                    1. Does shitty mean good in Warty-Speak? I don't have my Warty-English dictionary handy.

                  2. So you want to make a movie version of Truce at Bakura?

          2. Haven't you seen Plinkett's review? The kid-murder was the best part of the whole movie!

            1. Plinkett was kidding, of course.

  3. Prediction: 0 states will pass this. If I am wrong, then you can put me in a locked room with Steve Smith for 60 minutes.



      1. Shit....a photo finish! I think you won Epi!

        1. I was 3.7 seconds faster than you.

  4. "..requiring the government to convict people before taking property.."

    These laws were passed when I was just a snot nosed teenager, but even then I wondered how it could possibly be OK for someone to be punished without a conviction. I seem to recall some argument about drug dealers ill gotten gains...oh there's that WOD again.

    1. Exactly. There's a lot of egregious stuff in the WOD, well-chronicled here and elsewhere, but this one has always been so egregious that it just never made any sense to me.

      Like, these SWAT team fiascos -- they're overboard, they're outrageous, etc. But they're still just off-kilter, amplified versions of standard police measures.

      The asset-forfeiture stuff, though... It just seems counter to every basic principle of justice. How can you punish somebody by taking their stuff -- including the very money they may need to defend themselves -- when they're not yet convicted of anything?

      (Of course, I suppose you could ask the same question about locking people up in jails while they await trial.)

    1. I have a question. Does "to the point of" mean actually achieving or just short of achieving?

    2. The woman reported that Pearce was wearing jeans tucked into cowboy boots, introduced himself as Kyle, and said he was connecting on to Orlando, Florida. Pearce's MySpace page describes him as a junior college student who has been a bull rider for eight years.

      White people still use Myspace?

    3. "He ejaculated & got some on the seat. Then he went to the bathroom for a long time."


      You can't smoke in there! And you can't tamper with the smoke detector I understand....some sort of crime doncha know.

  5. I'm curious on how this might affect federal adoption. What's the point of having a conviction requirement if they can get around it?

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