Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed HB 7146 on Monday, which curbs the state’s civil forfeiture laws. Not only did the bill earn endorsements from the Yankee Institute for the Public Policy and the state chapter of the ACLU, HB 7146 even passed both the House and the Senate without a single no vote.
Under the new law, in order to permanently confiscate property with civil forfeiture, the property must be first seized in connection to either a lawful arrest or a lawful search that results in an arrest. If prosecutors do not secure a guilty verdict, a plea bargain or a dismissal from finishing a pretrial diversion program, the government must return the property to its rightful owner. With the stroke of a pen, Connecticut now becomes the 14th state to require a criminal conviction for most or all forfeiture cases.
“Civil forfeiture is one of the most serious assaults on Americans’ private property rights,” Institute for Justice Senior Legislative Counsel Lee McGrath said. “The bill is a solid first step to ensure that innocent people do not lose their property to this use of 17th Century admiralty law applied to the 21st Century war on drugs.”
According to data obtained by the Institute for Justice and the Reason Foundation, police and prosecutors generated more than $17.8 million in forfeiture revenue from 2009 to 2016. Nearly two-thirds of those proceeds came from civil forfeiture cases, where the owner did not have to be convicted. Law enforcement predominantly confiscated cash, but also seized dirt bikes, gold chains, and electronics like iPads, TVs and cell phones.
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