Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy had finally done something worth doing, he signed d HB 7146 which curbs the state’s civil forfeiture laws. The bill passed both the House and the Senate without a single no vote.
This is a great law because civil forfeiture is one of the most serious assaults on Americans’ private property rights. 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. The cops confiscated cash, but also seized dirt bikes, gold chains, and electronics.
In Connecticut, half of all civil forfeitures were under $570 in 2016 suggesting that many of the victims don’t have the means to fight back against a seizure in court.
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. Connecticut is the 14th state to require a criminal conviction for most or all forfeiture cases.
The problem is that this wonderful bill doesn’t go far enough. The state still allows police and prosecutors to collect 69.5 percent of the proceeds from forfeited property which does nothing more than provide a strong incentive to seek cases with a big payout. Also Connecticut agencies can spend forfeiture money without any public oversight or accounting.