Asset Forfeiture

California Forfeiture Reform Bill Stalls in Assembly

Law and order lobbyists defeat due process.

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It's possible that not even bipartisanship can trump law enforcement unions and prosecutors in California. A bill to require that police and prosecutors actually convict citizens of crimes before attempting to make them forfeit their assets or money failed to pass the Assembly this afternoon. The final vote was 24 aye, 41 nay.

I wrote about Senate Bill 443 yesterday. It was struggling after passing overwhelmingly in the Senate. Law and order reps inundated Assembly members with horror stories that the state would be ejected from the federal asset forfeiture program if California introduced tougher regulations, and that it would cost tens of millions of dollars (except, of course, they would still have access to the state's asset forfeiture program as an alternative, but never mind that). One Assembly member, defending civil asset forfeiture today, went so far as to suggest that not allowing police to take and keep cash and property without a conviction contributes to criminals murdering kids in the streets.

But despite the claims made yesterday, CJ Ciaramella, BuzzFeed's Washington editor, got a message from a Department of Justice spokesperson this afternoon stating that, actually, the most recent, stripped-down version of SB 443 would not threaten the state's participation in the federal program.

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It looks like that information came too late to be used to counter what the police and prosecutors were telling their Assembly members. 

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