Meanwhile, in Austin, legislators prepare to debate a remarkable variety of legislation aimed at limiting or at least documenting civil asset forfeiture by law enforcement.
State Rep. David Simpson recently argued for requiring a criminal conviction to seize assets, while Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa and Rep. Jeff Leach have both filed legislation to raise the standard the state must meet (from "preponderance of the evidence" to "clear and convincing evidence") for the state to seize assets.
There's a remarkable level of interest in this topic from across the political spectrum. Legislation by Rep. Phil Stephenson would require audits of forfeiture funds to "include a detailed report that itemizes all seizures of proceeds or property under this chapter and that indicates the specific criminal offense on which each seizure was based and, if charges were brought in connection with the offense, the disposition of those charges." Rep. Borris Miles has filed legislation limiting the application of asset forfeiture in certain misdemeanor cases to repeat offenders.
At an event in December sponsored by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Andrew Kloster of the Heritage Foundation recommended that anyone interested in forfeiture reform should review these three sources:
- A 2013 article from the New Yorker titled, "Taken."
- A multi-part series from the Washington Post titled, "Stop and Seize."
- An hilarious segment on asset forfeiture from John Oliver's HBO show, Last Week Tonight.