California legislature is currently debating a reform of the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws which, if signed into law, would mean “law enforcement would only be allowed to seize property and money if a property owner is convicted of a crime. The legislation also prohibits law enforcement agencies from transferring seized property and cash to the federal government.” This last sentence makes it very clear as to why the federal government would be so against such a reform;it would lose assets should this be passed. The federal government threatens California lawmakers with the fear of losing eligibility in the federal government’s Equitable Sharing Program, from which “California law enforcement agencies received more than $89.6 million.”
There are dissenters to this legislation even within California. Alice Dery, deputy chief of the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, has made it clear that should the proposed legislation be passed, California law enforcement of all levels would not be eligible for the Equitable Sharing Program. Sean Hoffman, director of legislation for the California District Attorneys Association, wrote that the reforms “will cripple the ability of law enforcement to forfeit assets from drug dealers when arrest and incarceration is an incomplete strategy for combating drug trafficking.”
If, as multiple reputable sources indicate, the new legislation will only result in a lower budget and worse ability to combat drug traffickers, then the answer is clear: do not pass the legislation. However, it has already passed, with a vote of 38-1, and the state Assembly is to debate the changes this week.
Let us not forget, however, that this legislation would help to prevent the unjust acquisition of private property. But does this legislation that would inspire inefficiency in an already bureaucratically-burdened system provide better for the common good than the current system? What the article ultimately presents is a choice: lose millions of dollars of federal funding and help to stop the unjust theft of private property, or keep millions of dollars and be able to more efficiently fight crimes?
Link to the website here