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Commentary :: Human Rights
Carnivorous Colorado “Asset Forfeiture Bill” Postponed Indefinitely
26 Mar 2009
HB09-1238 would have opened the door for police to target business and homeowners for Civil Asset Forfeiture in “poor communities” where crime rates are higher.
HB09-1238 if passed, would have been a Forfeiture Field Day for Colorado Sheriffs. Police would no longer need a conviction to Civilly Forfeit a person’s property. Public resistance was fierce.

HB09-1238 would have opened the door for police to target business and homeowners for Civil Asset Forfeiture in “poor communities” where crime rates are higher. Poor neighborhoods, schools and community services dependent on property taxes could have been economically impacted by dropping real estate values, the probable-result of multi-family and other investors frightened away by the HB09-1238 “no conviction needed” to forfeit property law.

Colorado’s HB09 civil asset forfeiture law could have hit the rich. Expensive Colorado resort properties used by occupants for illegal purposes—even if unbeknownst to the owner, could be civilly forfeited on the basis an owner “had reason to know” of lawbreaking activities at their home: For example a parent “had reason to know” their teenager staying at the Colorado vacation house might get into trouble—again. Under HB09-1238 no one would need to be convicted of a crime for police to civilly forfeit a vacation owner’s property. Had this bill passed, it is foreseeable less people would want to purchase a Colorado vacation home if they intended to rent it. Under HB09-1238 property management companies might have been vulnerable to lawsuits from property owners losing rented homes to civil asset forfeiture.

Realistically it is not possible 100% of the time for owners to stop patrons and tenants breaking laws at their e.g., rented home, apartment building, restaurant, or motel. Federal Civil Asset Forfeiture requires a lower standard of evidence than criminal evidence, “only a Preponderance of Civil Evidence” to forfeit property. No one need be charged with a crime: government can use as civil evidence to forfeit someone’s real property, that the owner reported to police their tenant was dealing drugs to show the owner—had prior knowledge of the activity. There are over 200 U.S. laws and violations that can subject property to civil asset forfeiture. For example a misrepresentation on a federally insured mortgage loan application can make your home—forever subject to federal civil asset forfeiture.

To help protect Americans from continuing police forfeiture abuse, Congress should pass legislation that raises the standard of evidence U.S. Government uses for Civil Asset Forfeiture from a mere “Preponderance of Evidence”, to “Clear and Convincing Evidence. All states should require that someone must first be convicted of a crime before their property can be forfeited.

Colorado Police did not want to wait for a criminal conviction before seizing someone’s property. Outrageously HB09-1238 would have prevented—a court—staying a “Civil Asset Forfeiture Proceeding” until a criminal trial related to the owner’s seized property was finished.

Colorado Citizens need to be Alert to stop the next “police asset forfeiture bill.”

_______________________________ March 23, 2009
Chairman of Committee Date
Committee on Judiciary.
After consideration on the merits, the Committee recommends the
HB09-1238 be postponed indefinitely.

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