Asset Forfeiture

Nebraska Poised to Require Convictions for Asset Forfeiture

Law would forbid participation in federal 'sharing' program for most situations.

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Forfeiture
Credit: Photographerlondon | Dreamstime.com

Nebraska may join a handful of other states in requiring that the government actually convict citizens of crimes in order to permanently seize and keep their assets or cash.

Nebraska's legislature this week passed LB 1106 with a 38-8 vote and sent it to Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts. This appears to be a particularly good reform. It would eliminate the "civil" component of asset forfeiture (at points the bill literally crosses out the word "civil" in current references to "civil asset forfeiture" in code). Asset forfeiture would continue to exist as an option only when a person has been convicted of a crime. Prosecutors would then have to prove that the property to be seized was connected to the crime in order for the state to keep it. The threshold for this proof is lower than that needed to convict somebody of a crime, but since a person would have to be convicted first, it's still a huge improvement.

The law also addresses the state's participation in the Department of Justice's "equitable sharing" program. This the mechanism by which local law enforcement agencies partner with the Department of Justice for busts and then use the federal rules for forfeiture. The federal guidelines are often much laxer than state guidelines and allow law enforcement agencies to keep up to 80 percent of what they seize. Many departments have turned to the federal program in order to deliberately bypass state restrictions that may reduce the amount of money they may keep. And according to the Institute for Justice, Nebraska already does have tougher restrictions for asset forfeiture than the Department of Justice. That might be why state law enforcement agencies have brought in more than $48 million in seizures from the federal program between 2000 and 2013.

LB 1006 will end a good chunk of that, but not all of it. The law will forbid state and local law enforcement agencies from participating in the federal program unless the assets involved are worth more than $25,000 (most are much less than this), unless a federal agent is physically there taking the property,  or unless the suspect (or the suspect's property) is subject to federal prosecution.

Now it's up to the governor to decide whether to veto. Apparently the current version has been changed from what the state's attorney general's office and law enforcement representatives have recommended to make it tougher than they would like. Ricketts may want to take note of several recent polls that show that the American public overwhelmingly believes that police should not be able to seize people's property without convicting anybody of a crime.

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  1. Remember when we were sovereign individuals with “natural rights,” and didn’t have to pass laws in order to dole them out? Yeah, me neither.

    1. It sucks it has come to this. It is however nice to see the ratchet move the other way for once if only a little bit.

      1. How many times do I have to say it? The ratchet and pawl to get free energy breaks the second law!

    2. At least it’s a drift in the right direction.

      1. The sort of drifting where it looks like things may go off the beaten path for once, but in the end policy as usual, like momentum, is preserved?

    3. Once upon a time the government had only the powers enumerated by the Constitution, and the people were secure in all their rights, regardless of if they were spelled out in the Constitution or not.

      Now it ain’t a right if it isn’t spelled out in the Constitution, and the government can do anything it wants unless it is specifically banned by the Constitution (and even then it can use the FYTW clause).

      1. Co stitutiobs really only work if you keep the bastards away from the levers of power.

        1. Co stitutiobs

          I thought this was fancy Latin at first.

      2. Now it ain’t a right if it isn’t spelled out in the Constitution,

        And maybe not even then.

  2. Isn’t it cute how they put the cash in ziploc bags so that it looks like “evidence?”

    1. It’s bad form to put pilfered cash directly into bank deposit envelopes.

  3. the Department of Justice’s “equitable sharing” program.

    Moar New Speak.

    Shouldn’t that be the Department of Justice’s “equitable sharing stealing” program.

    1. I believe the technical term is “federally assisted looting”.

  4. Does it assign penalties to police departments who say “Fuck you, we’re keeping it anyway”?

    If not then it doesn’t matter. They’ll keep it anyway.

    1. True. Here in Indiana, the law says proceeds from forfeitures are supposed to go into the general fund (or maybe it’s education, I can’t remember for sure). This sounds good in theory, since it reduces cops’ incentive to glom onto people’s stuff, but various police agencies have found plenty of ways around it. Some call in the feds for the “equitable sharing” dodge. Others take advantage of a loophole in the law that says they can keep enough of the proceeds to pay for the investigation leading to the seizure. Truly amazing how much some of these investigations cost… Finally, some just flat out ignore the law and keep the goodies without offering even a token explanation. Since they don’t seem to be suffering any consequences, it’s not surprising that they go on doing it.

  5. How bout a state law that prohibits participation in the Department of Justice’s “equitable sharing” program?

    THEN, I’ll hold out some hope.

  6. Nebraska Poised to Require Convictions for Asset Forfeiture

    Anarchy ensues. Chaos reigns.

    1. Criminals can now afford to hire an attorney and have a proper defense at trial. That is just anarchy and letting criminals prey on the public with impunity.

      Why do you hate the public so much Aloysious?

      1. The public, children, small dogs, and margarine. My hatred is shallow but wide.

        To appease my hatred, I’m going to push for a Bernie/Trump fusion ticket.

        1. You know it would win a 50 state landslide.

  7. It’s probably too much to expect the governor to sign this, but I enjoy the brief interval between the bill passing the legislature and the governor killing it.

    1. 38-8 is a more than 75% margin. A veto would be easily overridden.

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