Civil asset forfeiture has been a massive breach in the rights of American citizens happening right under their nose, yet not often spoken about. For those who don't know what it is, civil asset forfeiture is, it was originally intended as a crime fighting tool to prevent drug trafficking. However, it has been abused far too often to enrich departments.
It occurs when a police officer randomly pulls over a citizen, and legally seizes their property on the mere suspicion that the property is being used for illegal purposes. There need be no guilty verdict, or criminal conviction. While the property has ranged from cars to shark fins, the property seized is usually cash, and this cash is used to enrich the departments by which they were seized.
Retrieving the property is oftentimes a highly difficult, and sadly fruitless effort, however, thanks to Republican Senator Konni Burton of Texas, this overreach may soon come to an end in her state.
Burton pre-filed Senate Bill 380 for the 2017 legislative session, and it states that asset forfeiture may not occur without a criminal conviction. Civil forfeiture may only occur if the property owner isn't available, or doesn't claim the property as theirs. It also tackles the problem of state prosecutors passing cases off to federal law enforcement agencies to get around state law.
"Civil asset forfeiture is a strong tool for law enforcement to combat large criminal enterprises; however, more protections must be built into the system to ensure the government is not wrongfully taking property from innocent Texans," Burton told TheBlaze. "For too long we have allowed the erosion of our foundational property rights in the name of law and order. SB380 will restore those rights."
The bill is set to be voted on in January.