Monday, July 19, 2021

Maine abolishes civil asset forfeiture

Maine became the fourth state in the nation to abolish civil asset forfeiture, a practice where law enforcement can seize property if they suspect it is connected to criminal activity, even if the owner is not convicted of a crime, reported Reason.

After a bill passed by the state legislature, LD 1521, took effect without the governor's signature yesterday, Maine officially repealed its civil forfeiture laws, joining Nebraska, New Mexico, and North Carolina.

Law enforcement groups say civil asset forfeiture is a crucial tool to disrupt drug trafficking and organized crime by targeting their ill-gotten proceeds. However, groups like the Institute for Justice, a libertarian-leaning public interest law firm, say civil forfeiture provides too few due process protections for property owners, who often bear the burden of proving their innocence, and creates too many perverse profit incentives for police.

"Civil forfeiture is one of the most serious assaults on due process and private property rights in America today," Institute for Justice Senior Legislative Counsel Lee McGrath said in a press release. McGrath says Maine's new law "ends an immense injustice and will ensure that only convicted criminals—and not innocent Mainers—lose their property to forfeiture."

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