Advocates Reminded of the Often Undeserved Sway of Law Enforcement
This week an asset forfeiture reform proposal died in Colorado’s Senate Judiciary Committee. SB-006 aimed to join other states and the recent federal effort to curb the intrusive, arguably unconstitutional and financially distorted incentive practice of civil asset forfeiture. State law provides people due process protections from state authorities seizing their property. However, local and state police often circumvent state law by turning seized assets over to federal authorities who then liquidate those assets and return the proceeds to local law enforcement.
SB-006 would have provided constitutional protections in the case of joint state and federal asset forfeiture proceedings -- requiring a conviction, mandating a pre-trial hearing and only allowing forfeiture proceedings for assets valued over $50,000. The bill attempted to deter frivolous and subjective forfeiture efforts by law enforcement. The Drug Policy Alliance, ACLU of Colorado, Colorado Criminal Defense Institute, Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition and many local lawyers, victims and like-minded civilians testified in favor of the bill.
Statement from Art Way, Colorado state director of the Drug Policy Alliance
“This defeat demonstrates that many of our decision-makers stubbornly defer to law enforcement despite ample cause to scrutinize police practices. This is also a bipartisan disappointment as Democrats and Republicans alike often succumb to unreasonable pressure from law enforcement. We applaud Republican Senator Laura Woods’ efforts and question why her party did not provide more support given their well-known concerns about the scale and intrusiveness of government. We also wonder why Democrat Senator Lucia Guzman did not allow this proposal to advance despite her commitment to social justice, human rights and dignity for all.