The Minnesota legislature just struck a blow against our heroes in blue! With a swipe of his pen Governor Dayton has made it unlawful for police to keep confiscated property without a conviction:
In a big win for property rights and due process, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill yesterday to curb an abusive—and little known—police practice called civil forfeiture. Unlike criminal forfeiture, under civil forfeiture someone does not have to be convicted of a crime, or even charged with one, to permanently lose his or her cash, car or home.
The newly signed legislation, SF 874, corrects that injustice. Now the government can only take property if it obtains a criminal conviction or its equivalent, like if a property owner pleads guilty to a crime or becomes an informant. The bill also shifts the burden of proof onto the government, where it rightfully belongs. Previously, if owners wanted to get their property back, they had to prove their property was not the instrument or proceeds of the charged drug crime. In other words, owners had to prove a negative in civil court. Being acquitted of the drug charge in criminal court did not matter to the forfeiture case in civil court.
Civil forfeiture is one of the best sources of police funding. By simply accusing an individual of wrongdoing the police could confiscate his or her property and sell it to fund their department. Now our boys in blue will be required to actually convict an accused individual in order to sell their property! It’s obvious what this will do to our fine state. Without profits from civil forfeiture the police departments won’t be able to afford as many guns, as much body armor, and an ever growing fleet of cruisers. How can we expect our heroes to keep up their record number of curb stompings, dog slayings, and no-knock raids at incorrect addresses if they can’t afford the equipment those jobs require? This is a travesty!
Your friendly neighborhood statist.