Today, Florida Governor Rick Scott approved a bill aimed at reforming the practice of civil asset forfeiture, following unanimous passage in both the House and Senate.
The bipartisan unanimity of passage in both chambers was driven by a diverse and disparate coalition of law enforcement and reform advocates, including the Drug Policy Alliance, which retained attorney Ron Book to lobby on their behalf for the legislation, the Florida Sheriff’s Association, the Florida Association of Police Chiefs, Americans for Forfeiture Reform, the Florida ACLU, the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Institute for Justice, the James Madison Institute and the Grover Norquist-led, Americans for Tax Reform.
“The notion that police officers can take cash or other property from people never charged with any criminal wrongdoing and keeping any profits from the sale of seized property doesn’t sit well with the public,” said Bill Piper, senior director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Voters want action on civil asset forfeiture and it was smart politics for Governor Scott to sign off on this.”
An overwhelming majority of registered Florida voters support civil asset forfeiture reform, according to a recent poll released by Drug Policy Action. 84 percent of Florida registered voters, including 86 percent of all Republicans and 81 percent of independents, think police should not be able to seize and permanently take away property from people who have not been convicted of a crime. 66 percent of voters polled, including 65 percent of Republicans and 68 percent of Democrats would be more likely to support a candidate for president who took the position that the government should not be able to take property from a person who has not been convicted of a crime.
There is growing momentum behind reforming civil asset forfeiture laws in state houses across the country. Lawmakers in California, Alaska, Hawaii, Ohio, Nebraska, Maryland and elsewhere are considering bills that reform civil asset forfeiture laws. Last year, New Mexico passed a sweeping bill that gives the state some of the strongest protections against wrongful seizures in the country.
DPA Fact Sheet: Civil Asset Forfeiture