July 12, 2017

Connecticut joins fair forfeiture states

Forbes - 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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is a good first step but it needs to go further.

Since the law still allows forfeitures based upon plea bargains or entry into diversionary programs, it is still defective. Prosecutors will now demand guilty pleas to minor offenses just to allow the state to seize properties. This is a real problem. There has been a long and ongoing erosion of Constitutional protections against vague criminal laws. Thus, it is now much easier to obtain convictions where nothing really "wrong" has been done. Prosecutors will leverage threat of convictions to vaguely written laws into plea bargains designed to cause forfeitures where no real social purpose is served by the forfeiture. The same thing will be true with the use of diversionary programs. The law should require a connection between a proven serious infraction of law and the seizure of the property, otherwise the abuse of forfeiture laws will continue.