Rep. Ilana Rubel’s (D-Boise) Civil Asset Forfeiture bill (H 202), co-sponsored with Rep. Steve Harris (R-Meridian), just passed through the House with overwhelming bipartisan support. This bill makes sure that law enforcement can still seize drug money – but not property that has nothing to do with drug activity. For too long, Idaho has invaded the property rights of citizens who have seen their cash, cars and even homes seized without due process.
Under this bill, authorities would not be able to confiscate property that has no connection to a crime. Furthermore, merely having cash in your possession, without any evidence of an offense, is not grounds for police to seize that cash to be seized. Police should seize money and property involved in crimes, but not a waitresses’ cash tips. This bill allows police to stay tough on drug dealers while protecting your due process rights.
Civil asset forfeiture reform bill clears Idaho House
By Kimberlee Kruesi, Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho proposal to limit when police can take a citizen’s property cleared its latest hurdle Thursday despite warnings from critics that doing so will mean the Legislature is softening its stance on crime.
House members voted 58-10 to advance legislation that would forbid police from seizing cash or property simply because it was in close proximity to an illegal substance.
Lawmakers noted that having cash near contraband cannot be grounds for seizure.
The bill would also ban seizing vehicles unless they are connected to trafficking offenses, require judicial approval for agencies to keep forfeited assets, and create reporting requirements for law enforcement agencies on forfeited property.
“This legislation ensures that law enforcement may continue to seize drug proceeds while ensuring the due process rights of Idaho residents are protected,” said Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, co-sponsor of the bill. “The police should be able to take drug money, but not your waitressing tips.”
Idaho’s current civil asset forfeiture law allows police to seize someone’s cash or cars if authorities believe it’s tied to a crime as a way to fight large-scale criminal operations. A person doesn’t need to be charged with a crime in order to have property seized.
States around the country have been scrutinizing their forfeiture laws in recent years as civil liberties groups and others highlighted abuses where police raked in cash and property despite hazy connections to a purported crime.
However, proponents of civil asset forfeiture counter that the state should trust law enforcement agencies are taking items used to commit drug crimes in the fight to weaken drug kingpins across the state.
Law enforcement agencies like the Fraternal Order of Police, as well as the Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association, have remained neutral on the bill. The Idaho Sheriff’s Association opposes the measure.
“Are we going to vote for this and go back to our districts to tell our voters, ‘Vote for me, I’m soft on crime,'” said Rep. Van Burtenshaw, R-Terreton.
The 10 “no” votes came from Reps. Amador, Bedke, Burtenshaw, Gibbs, Hartgen, Malek, McDonald, Syme, Wood, and Youngblood.
HB 202 now goes to the Idaho Senate for consideration.