Asset Forfeiture’s Unintended Poor Victims

Asset Forfeiture VictimsWho knew the aggressive law enforcement tool to weaken and discourage organized crime would sweep up unintended poor victims who are unjustly losing their property? Here in California there is proposed legislation to correct this travesty and protect people from the snares of over policing. And whether or not we realize it anyone of us can fall into the trap of losing our home, car, and property.

That is why State Senator Holly Mitchell (D – Los Angeles) has spent the past two years pushing SB 443, a bill that would reform civil asset forfeiture in California. Based on current practices, police officers can take away your property without a conviction.

Did you know that?

Law enforcement agents have the authority to seize your home, car, money, and any asset you own before a court can determine your guilt or innocence. That is not fair and should be criminal. But it happens all the time.

It is a fact. Law enforcement agents have the authority to seize your home, car, money, and any asset you own before a court can determine your guilt or innocence. That is not fair and should be criminal. But it happens all the time.

Senator Mitchell is not alone in her tenacious campaign to change the law and protect the public: you and me (us). She is joined by Senator David Hadley, a Republican from Torrance. That’s right! There is bipartisan support for a bill that seeks to remedy an unjust tactic that pours hard earned money and property into the coffers of law enforcement agencies throughout the state.

Who knew the so-called “War on Drugs” would lead to legally snatching property before a person was found guilty. That doesn’t sound like the California of my birth and the state I call home. Yet, it is the reality. It is a wrong that requires correction.

Senators Mitchell and Hadley, a Democrat and a Republican, have stepped across the aisle in Sacramento and joined together because civil asset forfeiture should not continue. But, they can’t change this law alone.

Members of the California Assembly need to hear from you. In 2015, members of the Assembly had a chance to end civil asset forfeiture but the bill died on the floor of the Assembly. We can’t afford to let that happen again. This year Senators Mitchell and Hadley have brought SB 443 back for another vote. Agencies that benefit from this tactic will show up in force to kill it again. It really is up to the people of California to make sure that does not happen.

Art-Cribbs-200We have to help our Assembly members find the courage to protect the public. We must make sure SB 443 passes and becomes law. For once, call, write, or visit your Assembly member and make your voice and vote count. Tell them civil asset forfeiture hurts the innocent. It is wrong to take away our home, automobile, money, and property without due process.

Art Cribbs

About Art Cribbs

The Rev. Dr. Art Cribbs is the executive director of Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, a statewide faith-based organization, that advocates for workers and immigrant rights, quality education, and health care.