JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT REQUIRING A CRIMINAL CONVICTION FOR CERTAIN OFFENSES BEFORE ASSETS SEIZED IN A LAWFUL ARREST OF LAWFUL SEARCH MAY BE FORFEITED IN A CIVIL PROCEEDING.
Joint Favorable Substitute
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Rep. Sampson, 80th dist; Rep, France, 42nd Dist.; Rep. Fishbein, 90th Dist.;
REASONS FOR BILL:
This bill makes changes to the laws governing the civil forfeiture of property and limits the conditions under which the property can be seized. Current law allows the state to seek the forfeiture of property that is believed to be connected with a crime regardless of whether that property has been proven to be connected with a crime.
The substitute language clarifies that anyone pursuing an action under the statute would have to pay all applicable court fees.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Connecticut Judicial Branch
The process involving the return of seized property raises several concerns. The Branch is concerned about the portion of the bill that allows anyone claiming a right to possess the property to petition for its return, instead of permitting ownership right to make such a petition. The Branch was also concerned with the language of the bill is that the new process seems to contradict itself by both requiring the return of money or property upon certain findings, but also permitting the court to return only enough to cover attorneys' fees. The branch also stated that the language in sections 113, 202 and 287 stating “require an accounting of such property” is not clear. Section 1© which that all forfeited money related to a criminal offense be deposited in the General fund, would negatively affect the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund, which collects twenty percent of such forfeited money and property.
Subira Gordon, Executive Director, Commission on Equity and Opportunity
This bill will protect minorities, who are heavily burdened by civil asset forfeiture, from having their property seized prior to a criminal conviction.
Werner Oyanadel, Senior Commission Analyst, Commission on Equity and Opportunity
Civil Asset forfeiture is unconstitutional, and unfairly impacts a many minorities, and should be repealed and replaced by criminal asset forfeiture.
State of Connecticut Division of Criminal Justice
The abolishment of civil asset forfeiture would allow criminals to gain a profit off their crimes and also prevent law enforcement agencies from gaining necessary funds. The Division of Criminal Justice also asserts that the current policy regarding civil asset forfeiture is properly drafted as it “prevents government overreach while sensibly depriving offenders of criminal proceeds”.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Suzanna Bates, Policy Director—Yankee Institute for Public Policy
The Yankee Institute requested several amendments to the bill. They would like to clarify that civil asset forfeiture be replaced with criminal forfeiture. They also requested that the bill be amended so that it will be easier for an individual or their family members to petition the court to have their property returned.
Dave McGuire, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union- Connecticut Chapter
Civil asset forfeiture under current law gives police the power to take and keep property from an individual who has not been convicted or charged with a crime. These seizures often occur without an arrest or hearing and result in innocent people being deprived of their property without due process. Under most civil asset forfeiture laws, the property owner bears the costs and burden of demonstrating that their property has not been connected with a crime. The original bill needs to be clarified in a number of areas, but the ACLU supports the notion of abolishing civil asset forfeiture.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
None submitted (in response to HB 7146).
Reported by: Sara LeMaster