Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Passes Connecticut Legislature

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 7, 2017

CONTACT: Meghan Smith, 860-992-7645, msmith@acluct.org  

Following unanimous, nonpartisan votes of approval in both chambers of the Connecticut General Assembly, a civil asset forfeiture reform bill could make Connecticut the next state to prohibit law enforcement from taking and keeping a person’s property without first convicting them of a crime. On Wednesday evening, the state Senate approved H.B. 7146, An Act Requiring a Criminal Conviction for Certain Offenses Before Assets Seized in a Lawful Arrest or Search May Be Forfeited in a Civil Proceeding. The Senate’s 36-0 vote followed a strong vote of support from the House of Representatives, which approved the measure on a 143-0 vote. The proposal now awaits action by Governor Dannel Malloy.

Under civil asset forfeiture, the government can permanently confiscate and keep someone’s property without ever charging them with a crime. Under criminal asset forfeiture, the government must first convict a property owner of a crime before being allowed to keep his or her possessions. If enacted, H.B. 7146 would require a conviction in a criminal court before Connecticut prosecutors would be allowed to pursue a forfeiture case in civil court. With these changes, Connecticut would become the third state in New England, and the fourteenth state in the country, to require criminal convictions in all or most property forfeiture cases under state law. The bill received the support of the ACLU of Connecticut, the Yankee Institute for Public Policy, and the Institute for Justice.

David McGuire, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut, said: “Civil asset forfeiture is unjust and unconstitutional. It incentivizes policing for profit, disproportionately harms innocent people of color, and frequently violates the Constitution. Today’s vote is a welcome sign that people from all sides of the political spectrum will not tolerate policing for profit in our state.”

Zachary Janowski, director of external affairs at the Yankee Institute, Connecticut’s free-market think tank, said: “Civil asset forfeiture puts private property at risk and sends mixed signals to law enforcement. It’s about time Connecticut ended this unnecessary practice. The vote today shows that Connecticut can pass meaningful reforms with broad support.”

According to the Institute for Justice, a national libertarian think tank, Connecticut’s state and local law enforcement pursued 3,750 civil asset forfeiture cases from 2009 to 2013.

For more about the ACLU of Connecticut’s work to end civil asset forfeiture in Connecticut, including testimony supporting H.B. 7146: http://www.acluct.org/updates/stopping-civil-asset-forfeiture