ACLU, Americans for Tax Reform back Senate bill requiring convictions before property seizures
Organizations across a broad spectrum of political beliefs on Monday asked the Virginia Senate Finance Committee to report a bill that would require a criminal conviction before law enforcement may seize and keep an individual’s private property.
House Bill 1287, sponsored by Delegate Mark Cole of Spotsylvania County, passed the House of Delegates with overwhelming support (92-6) less than two weeks ago. It now awaits passage in the Senate, needing first to get a supportive vote from the Senate Finance Committee, which will meet on Tuesday morning to determine the bill’s fate. The letterdetailing why the Commonwealth’s current civil asset forfeiture law is inadequate and fails to support the fundamental value of “innocent until proven guilty,” was signed by diverse organizations including Americans for Tax Reform, the Institute for Justice, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia.
“Law enforcement deserves proper funding to do the job we expect them to do,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga. “There should not, however, be an incentive to take people’s property in order to fund their operations.”
“It’s simple. We are all innocent until proven guilty,” continued Gastañaga. “For the Commonwealth to uphold that fundamental American justice principle, it must no longer allow law enforcement agencies to be able to take and keep person’s money or property unless they’ve proven that person is guilty of a crime.”
The bill (HB 1287) will be heard by the Senate Finance Committee on the morning of Tuesday, February 17, where passage is far from certain. State Senator Bill Carrico, a former state trooper who had sponsored similar legislation, struck his own bill from consideration last month under pressure from law enforcement.
“The House of Delegates has already made clear that the people’s voices are being heard loud and clear by their elected representatives in Richmond,” said Rob Poggenklass, Tony Dunn Legal Fellow at the ACLU of Virginia. “HB 1287 will help end policing for profit in the Commonwealth. We hope the Senate will move quickly to pass this important legislation, and by a similar margin.”
Click here to read the letter to the Senate Finance Committee.