Lawmakers wise to kill administrative forfeiture bill

Published 8:37 pm Tuesday, February 5, 2019

State lawmakers made the right call Tuesday when they rejected plans to revive a law that allowed law enforcement to seize property without going before a judge.

House Judiciary A Committee Chairman Mark Baker said his committee won’t consider House Bill 1104, which would have reinstated a previous law, the Associated Press reported. That means it died at a Tuesday deadline for legislation to advance out of committee.

Previous state law allowed agencies to file for administrative forfeiture if the property was valued at less than $20,000 and was thought to be associated with illegal drugs. If the property owner did not fight to get his/her property back within 30 days in court, the agency could keep the property — including cash.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

That law lapsed last year and some lawmakers supported allowing it to go back into effect.  Since the bill is dead, law enforcement agencies will have to continue getting a judge’s approval for a seizure. 

“It was a gross infringement on innocent until proven guilty and due process. Administrative forfeiture cuts the judge and the courts out,” said Rep. Joel Bomgar, a Madison Republican.

Those who supported the law argued that it was a valuable way to fight crime. And in some cases, it likely was. But the negatives associated with the practice — the chance of misuse or abuse of the law, the involvement of innocent people — outweigh any good.