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Meet the Texas Lawmaker Fighting Trump on Civil Asset Forfeiture

Konni Burton has emerged as the state's fiercest opponent of civil asset forfeiture.

When the White House hosted a meeting of sheriffs from across the country last February, President Donald Trump joked about destroying the career of a Texas state senator who supported reforms to civil asset forfeiture laws—a controversial practice where police can seize cash and property of people suspected—but in most cases never convicted or charged with a crime.

Though Trump's comments were meant to support police, they've had the opposite of their intended impact—it's re-energized the push for reform.

Texas state senator Konni Burton was one of many local lawmakers outraged by Trump's comments. She's a tea party leader from the Dallas-Fort Worth area who also happens to be pro-life and pro-borders. Burton isn't the unnamed state senator Trump offered to destroy, but she's emerged as the state's fiercest opponent of civil asset forfeiture.

"When you give law enforcement the ability to take your property without a conviction that's big government," Burton says.

Last December, Burton filed legislation that would repeal civil asset forfeiture in the state and replace it with criminal asset forfeiture.

"Police can still seize property that they think has been involved in a crime," says Burton, "but for them to keep it … you have to be convicted of a crime."

Texas has tried for years to reform civil asset forfeiture laws after horror stories began to emerge about the practice.

One of the most horrifying cases occurred in 2005, when cops seized $10,000 from Javier Gonzales who was driving from Austin to the border town of Brownsville to make funeral arrangements for his dying aunt. The cops didn't find any drugs or contraband in his car, but they pressured Gonzales to sign away his rights to the cash under the threat of a felony money laundering charge.

Gonzales took the case to court and eventually won his money back in April of 2008.

And in 2012 the ACLU settled a class action lawsuit against the city of Tenaha where cops illegally seized nearly $3 million from traffic stops involving mostly Black and Latino drivers. Victims were told that they could either sign their cash over to the city or go to jail.

Cases like this have earned Texas a D+ from the Institute for Justice for forfeiture laws. Data from the libertarian legal organization shows that the state takes in an average of $41.6 million dollars a year to local law enforcement agencies as a result of these seizures.

Burton's bill has bipartisan support, but it faces an uphill battle in the Texas legislature where it's faced opposition from "tough on crime" lawmakers and law enforcement agencies. Burton says her legislation isn"t about stopping police from doing their job, but protecting the property rights of all Texans.

"Everybody is ready for this to be reformed," Burton says. "You know it's just upside down and antithetical to what our country should stand for."

Produced by Alexis Garcia. Camera by Paul Detrick, Austin Bragg, and Meredith Bragg. Music by the Unicorn Heads.

Lightless Dawn by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) Source: http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/index.html?isrc=USUAN1100655 Artist: http://incompetech.com/

Be Inspired by Podington Bear is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License (http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Podington_Bear/Strummed/BeInspired).

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  • WakaWaka||

    Whoa- if true!

  • Johnimo||

    No contradiction. Just a recognition that, as Robert Frost wrote, "Good fences make good neighbors."

  • Hank Phillips||

    Both are contractions at gunpoint.

  • Tionico||

    Not in the least. How many Americans have been murdered, killed "accidentally" or carelessly, or injured in direct result of the hordes pouring over our borders? Borders keep us safer. And richer.

  • Robbzilla||

    I'm sorry to say that I'll have to move 10 miles west if I want to support her in the next election by voting... :p

  • Longtobefree||

    Not according to many stories about the non-existent fraudulent voting - - - - -

  • Hank Phillips||

    By sending money to her libertarian opponent you reinforce the pressure on her to also quit other forms of coercion. Even Gott-mitt-uns bigots are learning God fights on side of heaviest spoiler vote count.

  • Uncle Jay||

    RE: Meet the Texas Lawmaker Fighting Trump on Civil Asset Forfeiture
    Konni Burton has emerged as the state's fiercest opponent of civil asset forfeiture.

    1. Who will piss on the US Constitution if civil asset forfeiture is enacted?
    2. How will the Texas state and local law enforcement officials pay for their vacation homes in the Bahamas if civil asset forfeiture is reformed?
    3. What other form of stealing can the Texas state and local enforcement officials engage in once a reform in civil asset forfeiture becomes law?
    4. How will the Texas state and local law enforcement officials steal, I mean redistribute, the wealth from the little people if not through taking their bank accounts, houses, cars, etc if not through civil asset forfeiture before the accused are sent to trial?
    Even Governor Hickenlooper, a wise progressive, is unsure of reforming civil asset forfeiture laws in Colorado.
    Did anyone stop to think of the dire consequences of reforming civil asset forfeiture laws?
    I thought not.

  • Longtobefree||

    "When you give law enforcement the ability to take your property without a conviction that's big government," Burton says
    Not big government; unconstitutional. (no matter what the supremes say)

  • Nite2332||

    She needs to run for governor. Get rid of that useless bastard Abbot. #konniburtonforgovernor

  • Hank Phillips||

    So a mystical Republican girl-bullier suddenly realizes that her looter party is likely to lose once the Dems cut loose from the Green slime and replace "ban energy and tax carbon" with "relegalize hemp and end asset forfeiture" planks. Both looter parties buy votes from ku-klux enforcement bureaucracies with the asset-forfeiture planks their platforms convert into example-setting murders of innocent civilians. How American is that?
    But Reason does a disservice by ignoring the OBVIOUS-but-dissembled link between looters-by-law and a collapsing economy. Benjamin Harrison, Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, the Bush Dynasty, Ronnie Reagan and all Satan-scolders since have used this armed robbery without representation. They feign surprise at the crashes and flash crashes that cast actinic light onto these criminal activities by entrenched cleptocracies, but what miscreant doesn't?

  • Tionico||

    "Civil" asset "forfeiture" is a travesty, contrary to our US and most state Constitutions.

    It is not civil, but making war on the public., Nor is it "forfeiture" unless paying a cour-imposed fine is also a "forfeiture"..... pay it or go to jail is NOT forfeiture. "Let" them steal it or go to jail is not, either.

    If cops think some asset is materially involved in a crime, they have a right to seize it.... but it must be held, intact and protected, until the owner's legal case is completed. If found guilty of a real crime, AND the asset seized is PROVEN to have been material to the crime, then it can be held forfeit. But the local police department seizing it should NOT be the ones to keep it. It should go into the general fund, from which the lawmakers MIGHT disbure some of it to some law enforcement.

    This nonsense is nearly identical to the "general warrants' issued by King George Three which "allowed" his troops to waylay anyone at any time in any place and search for anything or nothing or everything, and take what they desired. No recourse. Until that April morning in 1775 when Captain Parker's men stood against the oncoming Redcoats.... THAT lit the match that touched the powder that blew George's minions back home to England.

  • tommhan||

    I really detest this legalized theft. I wish her luck in fighting the big boys.

  • R. K. Phillips||

    Due process, such a simple concept, but simple minds cannot understand it.

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