California Lawmakers Reach Consensus over Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill: A Model for Georgia Reform?

California State Democratic Sen. Holly Mitchell and various law enforcement groups in California have reached an agreement regarding the fate of a bill introducing various reform measures to the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws, according to The Los Angeles Times of August 5, 2016,

The bill, S.B. 443, changes the requirement for seizing assets to a criminal conviction, but only for seizures of less than $40,000 in value.  This amount comes by way of a concession to the law enforcement community, who perceived the bill as too far-reaching without this addendum.

“At its core, [the previous version of SB 443] sends basically a message to drug dealers that the cost of doing business has gone down,” said Ventura County District Attorney Gregory Totten.

As a result of this compromise, however, seizures larger than the $40,000 amount still use the lowered burden of proof that was used previously in all Civil Asset Forfeiture cases in California.  This concession was enough for law enforcement advocacy groups to withdraw their opposition the measure, which would require passage through the CA legislature and Governor Brown’s signature to become law.

Other states, including potentially Georgia, might look to this legislation as an example of beneficial reforms to the controversial practice of asset forfeiture that do not go so far as to alienate law enforcement or those who still wish for their state to be “tough on crime.”

Organizations such as the Institute for Justice strongly supported the CA measure, and remain partnered with the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and others such as the American Civil Liberties Union in the cause for seeking out similarly successful “smart on crime” reform solutions in Georgia as well as nationwide.

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