Civil Asset Forfeiture

Wyoming's Attempt to Reform Asset Forfeiture Fails

Would have required a felony drug conviction before property could be seized.


Gov. Matt Mead needs to seize himself some better curtains.

Wyoming very nearly instituted some significant reforms that would have seriously curtailed the police's ability to take citizens' things. A state Senate bill would have required a felony drug conviction before the police could seize a person's assets. The bill actually passed overwhelming in February in high enough numbers to overturn a veto from the governor.

Then Republican Gov. Matt Mead did, in fact, veto the reform, calling forfeiture a "legitimate tool against those who profit from the destruction caused by drugs." And while he acknowledged that forfeiture tools have been abused by law enforcement in other states, he insisted in his letter explaining his veto that there was only one whole case in 40 years in Wyoming where money had been wrongly taken by the state and had been returned. Therefore, he didn't see why the state should actually have to prove somebody guilty in order to take their money.

Those who follow asset forfeiture reform controversies know that often the massive bureaucracy that serves to protect this process makes it so difficult for citizens to challenge seizures that they often don't even try or just give up. Steve Klein, staff attorney for the Wyoming Liberty Group, notes that only 20 percent of property owners in asset forfeiture cases have attorneys, and because frequently the value of the property seized in each case tends to be low, it's not worth the legal fees to try to fight it. Wyoming's system is set up, like most states, to make it hard to fight asset forfeiture. So Mead assumes that the surrender by the citizenry means that the police and prosecutors were in the right.

Sadly, even though Wyoming legislators initially had a veto-proof majority, a handful of senators subsequently switched their votes last week to no, killing it. This doesn't necessarily mean the end of the matter, though. Mead said he is not entirely opposed to forfeiture reform, but apparently felt this new law was too restrictive. Legislators may come back next year with a new proposal.

(Hat tip to Techdirt)

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  1. Mead said he is not entirely opposed to forfeiture reform, but

    A wise person once said to ignore everything before the “but.”

  2. Asset forfeiture is important because it takes away the ability of criminals to defend themselves in court. By stealing all their ill-gotten gains, they defendants are unable to hire their own defense and must prostrate themselves to a public pretender. This almost guarantees a conviction, which is a good thing because the state wouldn’t have stolen their property if they weren’t guilty. Duh.

    1. My professor of legal ethics told us about the system of court-appointed defense attorneys in Detroit. He actually used the word “whorehouse.”

    2. How pathetic is it that the government is afraid of what kind of defense someone could mount with a few thousand dollars versus the billions of dollars prosecutors have at their disposal.

      1. “You don’t want a criminal lawyer… you want a criminal lawyer”

      2. I am enjoying the everliving fuck out of that show.

  3. “[The Governor] insisted in his letter explaining his veto that there was only one whole case in 40 years in Wyoming where money had been wrongly taken by the state and had been returned.”

    That the forfeiture he’s supporting makes it alright to wrongly take things seems to have escaped him completely.

    1. The programmer in me makes note of the “and” operator in his statement.

      That means the state could have wrongly taken money from a lot of people while only returning it one time and the statement would be true.

      I’d like to see him say, “there was only one whole case in 40 years where money had been wrongly taken.” Is that a true statement?

      There seem to be a lot of qualifiers in that statement. “Whole case” and “money” for example. What about cars and houses? What the fuck is a whole case?

      1. It’s like saying that a police shooting is justified because previous shootings were ruled as justified (because previous shootings were ruled justified).

      2. You seem to be well versed in the study of Weasel Words.

        1. I’m an IT consultant. It is weasel words in the morning, weasel words in the afternoon, it is weasel words forever!

          1. +/- 1

    2. No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

      [And fuck anyone, squarely in the ass, who attempts to argue that “due process of law” means ANYTHING other than a trial by jury, when demanded by the defendant.]

      1. I have two magical incantations that I can chant to make inconvenient provisions of the Constitution disappear. One is “War on Drugs.” The other is “in rem jurisdiction.”

      2. But it’s not their property. They obtained the property illegally, so the property belongs to the government. The only due process requirement here is that the criminal goes through due process to take the property back from its rightful owner: the government.

      3. No person

        There’s your problem. They weasel around that by charging the thing.

        Now, why you can’t challenge this under a takings violation, I don’t know.

  4. As a wise man once said, it’s not remarkable that everyone has their price but it is depressing to think how low that price is for some people. The governor of Wyoming can apparently be bought for 30 pieces of stolen silver.

  5. I would think this would be especially problematic for states that border Colorado.

    I bet the highway from Colorado to Utah is especially fraught with forfeiture danger.

    All those off-roaders going to Moab with some weed are probably prime targets for forfeiture.

    Nice big, expensive vehicles…


    1. I’ve been to Moab twice since Colorado became somewhat more civilized, and I’ve never seen so much as a cop between Loma and Moab.

      1. Congratulations.

      2. [mental note to take I70 West next time I make a weed run to CO]

  6. Law enforcement is its own powerful lobby.

    1. Have you seen their lobby? SO tacky with all the gold trim and marble.

      It’s like a bad Italian whorehouse.

  7. Another “small government” conservative demonstrates that he has no idea, nor does he care, what “innocent until proven guilty” is all about.

    1. If someone is caught with drugs, then they’re guilty. Period. The trial is just a show, so it’s best to make it short and inexpensive for the government. An easy way to do this is to deprive the defendant of the ability to hire a real defense by taking away all their assets.

      1. And that solves the problem of due process, since that’s all the process that is due to them.

        1. Eventually the cops will learn the hard way that due process is a bullet delivering 340 grains of Trepanizine.

  8. profit from the destruction caused by drugs

    They don’t call them the stupid party for nothing.

  9. “legitimate tool against those who profit from the destruction caused by drugs.”

    And how does giving the cops the property help? And the destruction caused by drugs is equally shared by the abuser, and the State – and the citizens that vests it with authority – are disinterested, so the “loss” is the abuser’s to carry.

    1. Look. The government is the people and the people are the government. It says it right there in the Constitution when it says “We the People.” So when the government steals the property of drug dealers, it is returning the money to the people since the government is the people. Duh.

    2. Over/Under on when they start seizing the inventory of a car lot because it is a “legitimate tool against those who profit from the destruction cause by AGW”?

    3. Call me when your goons are kicking down doors of liquor stores and distributorships and seizing all their cash, using your “legitimate tool against those who profit from the destruction caused by drugs.”

  10. I’ve made $64,000 so far this year working online and I’m a full time student. I’m using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve made such great money. It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out about it. Heres what I’ve been doing,,,,,

  11. The ones who changed their votes need their ASSets forfeited.

    1. H. Beam Piper had a solution for those Quislings in his story “Lone Star Planet.”

  12. “[F]orfeiture a ‘legitimate tool against those who profit from the destruction caused by drugs.'” Well, then I guess they can go after all the businesses who produce or sell alcohol and tobacco, as well as the homes and personal bank account of the owners of those businesses. Alcohol and tobacco are far more destructive to individuals and society than all the presently illegal drugs combined. Or can we say hypocrit?

  13. Demonstrating once again that we need a “New Texas” amendment that would legalize the beating of politicans that pull this stunt.

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