Civil Asset Forfeiture

Maryland Lawmakers Attempt Veto Override for Police Forfeiture Reform

New bill would require conviction before police could take ownership of property.


Gov. Larry Hogan

Last spring Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed an effort to institute some modest reforms to the use and abuse of civil asset forfeiture by police within the state. While it wouldn't have gone so far as to demand that prosecutors actually get convictions before law enforcement agencies take their stuff, it would have established a minimum amount of money to prompt seizure, required police to establish stronger proof that the property owner knew the property was connected to a crime, and most importantly, blocked law enforcement agencies from transferring property to the Department of Justice in order to use the (now temporarily suspended) federal asset forfeiture sharing program to bypass state rules.

Like a lot of civil asset forfeiture reforms that make it to the governor's desk, this effort was bipartisan, and this week the state's Senate will attempt to override Hogan's veto. Logan Albright at FreedomWorks notes:

The Maryland State's Sheriffs' Association and Maryland Attorneys' Association oppose civil asset forfeiture reform, claiming that police need all available tools to go after drug dealers and other criminals. But the constitutional guarantee of due process applies to all Americans, and you can't just circumvent it because it's convenient or makes your job easier. We have to resist the temptation to surrender our freedoms for sake of security.

The sheriffs and attorneys would have you believe that civil forfeiture only happens to bad people who have broken the law, but without a high burden of proof on the government, there's no way of knowing that. In fact, forfeiture could happen to any one of us, leaving us with little recourse to retrieve our stolen property.

The veto override vote is scheduled for today.

And there's more. A new bipartisan push involving one Republican and two Democratic state senators is going to take it to the next level. The three of them have introduced legislation that would eliminate the civil version of asset forfeiture and require police to secure convictions of alleged criminals in order to take their property. Read more here.