Asset Forfeiture

After Veto, Wyoming Considers Milder Asset Forfeiture Reform

But there's still legislation under consideration to mandate conviction first.

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Gov. Matt Mead
USDA

Earlier this year, Wyoming's legislature overwhelmingly passed asset forfeiture reform that would have required an actual conviction before law enforcement officials within the state could take and keep its citizens' belongings.

Unfortunately, the legislation was vetoed by Republican Gov. Matt Mead, who insisted that law enforcement officers in his state were not abusing the law. Though the new law was passed with a veto-proof majority, some legislators subsequently switched their votes and let the law die. Legislators promised to revisit potential reforms to its current, very loose, civil forfeiture regulations.

So now it's back and legislators are hammering out a new bill, currently still in the drafting state. Unfortunately, it looks like the mandate that the government actually convict defendants of crimes before seizing their stuff may go by the wayside. There are a couple of proposals under consideration. One would not require a conviction, but would increase the current looser, more easily abused "preponderance of evidence" standard to seize. Instead a "clear and convincing evidence" threshold, higher, but not as high as conviction, would be considered. This bill would also grant a property owner a right to a jury trial to fight a forfeiture. It also calls for some form of analysis of "proportionality" of the forfeiture that allows the courts to reduce the amount of assets taken to fit the severity of the crime. (This part of the bill feels a little odd, as defenders of asset forfeiture don't talk about it as a type of "punishment" so much as preventing criminals from keeping the proceeds and assets they've earned from criminal behavior.)

The second proposed bill would again alter the rules to require criminal conviction for asset seizure. Property owners in such forfeiture cases would be allowed both a trial by jury and the right to legal representation. Clearly, from the perspective of actual asset forfeiture reform, the second choice is better. It would eliminate the concept of "civil asset forfeiture" entirely. Law enforcement could only take property when they are able to prove a crime happened.

Steve Klein, an attorney with the Wyoming Liberty Group, analyzes both the proposed laws here. Jason Pye at FreedomWorks also talks about Wyoming's reform efforts here

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  1. Though the new law was passed with a veto-proof majority, some legislators subsequently switched their votes and let the law die.

    Someone informed them that if they didn’t let law enforcement steal people’s money, the state would have to make up those budget shortfalls with taxpayer dollars.

    1. Or gasp reduce public sector employment.

  2. Matt Mead, have you ever seen how a woodchipper works? Would you like to?

  3. What’s Trump’s position on federal forfeiture kickbacks? That could be a real deal-breaker, said nobody ever.

  4. “…the legislation was vetoed by Republican Gov. Matt Mead, who insisted that law enforcement officers in his state were not abusing the law.”

    Lying fuckstick. If cops are taking people’s property without obtaining a conviction then they are abusing the law. It is called stealing.

    1. No they are breaking the law.If it’s unconsititutional it is ILLEGAL!!! This does not seem to stop local LEO’s,or the FBI,DEA,EPA,CIA NSA, ect.If they enforced that like they do drug and ‘terror’ laws thousands of LEO’s and feds would be rotting in prison,as they should,

      1. Civil seizure is not unconstitutional, that’s the problem. It’s a civil action against the property, not any person (though the owner can intervene as a claimant) so it, according to the Supreme Court, does not actually implicate constitutional concerns.

    2. Jesus Christ, why does anyone accept this bullshit?

      “We know the law isn’t being abused.”
      “How do you know that?”
      “Because it’s legal!”

  5. I didn’t even have to look at his wiki page to know he formerly worked as prosecutor.

    1. There it is !!!

  6. some legislators subsequently switched their votes and let the law die.

    Naked pictures… works every time!

  7. some legislators subsequently switched their votes and let the law die.

    Probably members of the Woodchipper Party.

    1. As someone with a wood stove I like my fuel cut to fit.Sure ,small parts are good to chip,but,large parts,legs,arms,well,they make a nice flame for the night.Get some twigs and small branches and the smell the sweet smell of long pork

      1. Seriously, what is wrong with your spacebar? Have you ever considered prying it off and cleaning underneath it?

        1. Hejustdoesn’twanttowasteelectrons.

  8. Let this be a lesson for us all: stop voting for Aryans.

    1. It’s Wyoming, is there anything but?

  9. Unfortunately, the legislation was vetoed by Republican Gov. Matt Mead, who insisted that law enforcement officers in his state were not abusing the law.

    What kind of asinine argument is that? Talk about completely missing the point. Should rape by officers not be illegal because no police officers are raping women on the job?

    1. Different question. He says no one is abusing the discretion of pre-conviction forfeiture, therefore they should be allowed to keep doing it in the responsible way…

      BS, obviously, but logically coherent.

      1. Anything can be made logically consistent by the selective definition of terms involved. The governor is defining “abuse” in such a way that he arrives at a vacuously true conclusion.

    2. Better yet, the same logic leads to an internal contradiction when asset forfeiture is applied. If you haven’t been convicted of any crime, then how do the police know the money was used in a crime? Police intuition = infallible, voter intuition = irrelevant.

  10. I wonder if he would have vetoed it without the cover of a veto-proof vote… Did someone in law enforcement tell him it was a “safe” veto he could use to raise campaign money from LEOs?

  11. It would be nice if some of these so-called “libertarian-leaning” states would start electing more libertarian-leaning types statewide. I have the same problem with New Hampshire, my state’s Democratic Governor opposed decriminalizing pot and has proven to be nothing more than a statist boot licker.

  12. It’s interesting that the legislature thought to address “proportionality” – I’ve not seen that elsewhere. Normally it’s just argument about when, in the due process (or lack thereof) chain, does LE have the right to seize the condemned property. But how and why certain property is condemned is open to way too much interpretation: property gets seized that not only wasn’t the provable direct proceeds of the underlying crime, but sometimes isn’t even germane to it.

    For instance, LEO’s have been known to seize your car because they arrest (and for sake of argument, convict) you of simple possession while you happened to be driving. But the fact that you were driving in your car has nothing to do with your charges. I’ve seen cases highlighted on this site where the operating principle, usually for drug arrests that happen in your home or vehicle, is that LE gets to indiscriminately take everything of value at the site of the arrest.

    So while “proportionality” is not really the right concern – proving the forfeited property is a direct proceed/benefit of the crime is – it’s at least a step in the right direction.

  13. Technically, the good gov is right: police and prosecutors are not abusing the law. They are perfectly applying it as it’s written.

  14. Any proceeds should be reserved for victims of the defendant upon conviction. If no victims can be identified, the proceeds should revert back to the defendant.

    1. That’s genius. Or at least really devious.

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