The federal civil asset forfeiture reform bill introduced by Republican Presidential candidate Rand Paul is only four pages long and with Governor Abbotts’ signature on SB 339 legalizing limited use of marijuana extracts, could be just the spark to ignite a campaign conversation on reform of civil asset forfeiture laws. No one has sympathy for pot traffickers who have their Maserati’s, Range Rovers and designer watches seized through the use of civil asset forfeiture but if GOP candidates were to weave true stories of civil asset forfeiture abuses into their platform & stump speeches and focus on instances where the lives of everyday, law abiding American citizens were impacted this could be a uniting campaign issue.
Here’s an outline of the premise.
Under current law, LEO’s may seize property without due process of law. Senator Rand Paul’s FAIR (Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act) would require the states to abide by state law when forfeiting seized property.
From a July 25, 2014 Washington Post article:
Sen. Rand Paul yesterday introduced S. 2644, the FAIR (Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration) Act, which would protect the rights of citizens and restore the Fifth Amendment’s role in seizing property without due process of law. Under current law, law enforcement agencies may take property suspected of involvement in crime without ever charging, let alone convicting, the property owner. In addition, state agencies routinely use federal asset forfeiture laws; ignoring state regulations to confiscate and receive financial proceeds from forfeited property.
The bill would also require states “to abide by state law when forfeiting seized property.
Abbott’s signing makes Texas the 15th state to allow for limited medical use of marijuana-derived oils. Twenty-three other states have adopted broader laws that allow for some form of legal and regulated cultivation, sale or production of multiple strains of medical marijuana for multiple debilitating conditions. The federal government considers all forms of marijuana to be illegal and classifies the plant as one of the “most dangerous” with no medical value.
Do you see the foundation of the premise? Do you see another reason why Ann Lee of R.A.M.P fought so hard to remove restrictions on the use of marijuana?
Now for some of the true stories of civil asset forfeiture abuses and their effect on the lives of everyday, law abiding American citizens. Because there must be safeguards and limitations on the use of civil asset forfeiture funds, right?
Let’s go to a Missouri Citizens Review Board hearing.
Scroll to the 8:56 minute mark of the video (WARNING: LNSFW)—“nope, no limitations on the use of civil asset forfeiture funds. We base it on something that would be nice to have that we can’t get in the budget…It’s kinda like pennies from heaven to get you a toy you need.”
Scroll to the 10:40 minute mark of the video (WARNING: LNSFW) to learn how Montgomery County, Texas used civil asset forfeiture funds to buy margarita machines, kegs of beer and bottles of Crown Royal liquor.
Harris County voters also need an explanation of why the District attorney’s office and the City of Houston opposed HB3717 this past Legislative session.
From the Local Government Impact statement:
Harris County reported that there would be a significant fiscal impact to the county. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office (HCDAO) uses forfeited funds to supplement the Commissioner’s Court Budget. In 2014, the HCDAO forfeited a total of $11,521,763 under Chapter 59, Code of Criminal Procedure. Of this amount, Harris County Sheriff Office received $1,831,817. The constables’ offices received $554,178, HCDAO received $3,233,189.50, part of which was used to purchase body cameras for patrol officers, and the Harris County Commissioner’s Court received $329,405.42, which was used to fund drug and alcohol abuse training and counseling.
The City of Houston reported that there would be a negative fiscal impact of $4,700,000 per year.
Are body cameras for patrol officers considered to be a necessary “toy” funded with “pennies from heaven”?
Tell us your thoughts.
Do you think campaigning on reform of civil asset forfeiture laws is an issue that could unite voters across all party lines?
Post your thoughts in the comments section.