A freshman Colorado state senator wants to stop police from seizing assets unless the owner is convicted of a crime.
“Guilty people will lose the fruits of their crimes, but innocent people will get their assets back,” said bill sponsor Sen. Laura Woods, R-Arvada.
Currently, state law allows asset forfeiture without a conviction under certain narrow circumstances, like if the person doesn’t show up for court for the crime or dies before trial. Woods said police also work around the current law by bringing in federal law enforcement, who will then split the proceeds with the local department after any assets are sold.
Senate Bill 2015-006 would prevent police from taking any assets without a guilty conviction unless there is a settlement with all the parties, including the owner, agreeing to give up the property. The legislation is also likely to discourage police from going to the feds because any money from sold assets would go directly to the state general fund instead of to individual police agencies.
“They were seizing for salaries and policing for profit,” Woods said. “Police departments saw (asset forfeiture) as a new stream of revenue and my predecessors have abdicated their responsibility because the executive branch raised and spent money without legislative oversight.”