Understanding Civil Asset Forfeiture
Civil forfeiture laws allow the government to take cash, cars, homes and other property suspected of being involved in criminal activity. Unlike criminal forfeiture, with civil forfeiture, the property owner doesn’t have to be charged with, let alone convicted of, a crime to permanently lose his property. Civil asset forfeiture treats property owners worse than criminals. Under civil asset forfeiture, the presumption of innocence is turned on its head, there is no right to an attorney, and it can take years to get your day in court.
Civil asset forfeiture by the government is one of the greatest threats to private property rights in the nation today.
"Police For Profit"
Civil forfeiture cases proceed under the legal fiction that cash, cars or homes can be “guilty." Because civil asset forfeiture cases are technically civil actions, property owners receive few, if any, of the protections that criminal defendants enjoy. To make matters worse, when law enforcement agencies take and sell your property, those same agencies and officers frequently are rewarded by keeping all of the proceeds for their own use. This gives agencies and officers employed by those agencies a direct financial incentive to “police for profit” by seizing and forfeiting as much property as possible.
The seeds of forfeiture abuse were sown in 1984 when Congress expanded federal civil forfeiture laws and created a financial incentive for law enforcement to forfeit property. Before then, all forfeited cash and proceeds from forfeited property had gone to the general fund of the U.S. Treasury. But starting in the mid-1980s, forfeiture revenue instead went to a newly created fund controlled by federal law enforcement. As a result, all revenues derived from federal forfeitures can go back to the very agencies charged with enforcing the law, giving those agencies and officers a financial stake in forfeiture efforts.
State and local agencies can also participate in forfeiture with the feds and receive a cut of the revenue through the benign-sounding “equitable sharing” program. Around the same time, many states followed Congress’ lead and broadened their own state forfeiture laws while also adding incentives to police for profit.
Kansas Standard Asset Forfeiture and Seizure Act
Kansas has its own state laws regarding civil asset forfeiture under the Kansas Standard Asset Forfeiture and Seizure Act, K.S.A. 60-4101 et seq.,
Kansas has earned notoriety from the Institute for Justice for having one of the worst civil asset forfeiture laws in the nation, with Kansas earning a D- on a recent ranking survey for all 50 states. The Institute for Justice used three-elements to grade each state's civil asset forfeiture law: (i) the financial incentive for law enforcement to seize private property; (ii) the government's standard of proof in proving its civil asset forfeiture claim against a private party; and (iii) who bears the burden in innocent owner claims.
It’s time to reform civil asset forfeiture in Kansas.
No one should lose his or her property to the government without being convicted of a crime, and government agencies nor agency bureaucrats should never profit from taking private property.
Reforming Civil Asset Forfeiture in Kansas
The original Kansas Standard Asset Forfeiture and Seizure Act, K.S.A. 60-4101 et seq., was passed in 1994. Under this act, a Kansas law enforcement agency is authorized to seize property and cash that the government agency believes is involved with certain criminal activity.
There has been growing discussion of civil asset forfeiture in recent years, and a number of states have reformed their forfeiture laws in varying ways over the last few years. In Kansas, several notable abuses of civil asset forfeiture have caused the Kansas Legislature to take a closer look at reforming civil asset forfeiture in Kansas.
Accusations of asset seizure pattern by Kansas Highway Patrol raise concerns, The Topeka Capital Journal, January 2, 2017