Tag March Meeting Asset Forfeiture Panel

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Tag March Meeting   Asset Forfeiture Panel
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Texans for Accountable Government says
Civil Asset Forfeiture Panel Tonight:

Matt Simpson, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Derek Cohen, Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF)

Matt Miller, Institute for Justice (IJ)

Millions expropriated from Texans without a criminal conviction.

Civil forfeiture is unlike criminal forfeiture in that property can be taken without a criminal charge and without due process. Chapter 59 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure allows for the State to confiscate assets that are alleged instruments of a crime. Guilt is presumed in civil forfeiture proceedings, and the cost for individuals to retain an attorney to prove their innocence is much higher than the seized property. Therefore forfeiture proceedings lead to default judgments in the State’s favor.

i.e. If you’re pulled over for speeding, an officer may ask if you have cash in your vehicle and seize it under some devised suspicion. You have to show up to a forfeiture proceeding and plea to the judge to get your cash back. A forfeiture proceeding looks something like: State of Texas vs. $850. If you don’t show up, you lose your property. The majority don’t show up.

Criminal forfeiture is much different. Property is seized and held until there is a conviction; upon conviction, the criminal’s property and cash associated with his crime is given to the law enforcement agencies involved in his arrest.

Local and state law enforcement agencies either liquidate or repurpose property seized by civil or criminal forfeiture. Funds are also shared with prosecutors. A large percentage of an agency’s budget is dependent upon these forfeiture accounts. Budgetary projections are made by how much these agencies believe they’ll earn from the spoils of forfeiture.

Rep. David Simpson’s Bill HB3171 - Total Reform

Removes civil asset forfeiture and establishes criminal forfeiture, which requires due process and 5th Amendment protection.

Shifts burden of proof in forfeiture proceedings to the State

Creates more detailed reporting requirements for how forfeiture funds are spent.

Removes equitable sharing for anything less than $50,000. Equitable sharing is the process by which local and state law enforcement agencies work with federal agencies to subvert laws that restrict civil asset forfeiture. Federal agencies seize property and then give 80% to the local or state authority.

Directs forfeiture funds to the comptroller of public accounts where it will be held in the general fund, rather than (as it currently exists) funds directed to the agencies and prosecutors involved in the seizure, which reduces economic incentives.

Returns seized property to owners if there is no conviction.
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By: Texans for Accountable Government

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