Ducey signs bill making it tougher for law enforcement to seize property

PHOENIX — Rebuffing prosecutors and sheriffs, Gov. Doug Ducey signed laws Wednesday to make it harder for them to grab property.

“Reforms have been wanted on this space for a while,” the governor stated in a ready assertion.

Ducey was not alone in his evaluation: Solely Rep. Becky Nutt, R-Clifton, voted towards the measure.

The brand new regulation would require prosecutors to offer “clear and convincing proof” to a decide that property is related to felony exercise earlier than they will seize it. Meaning both it was used as a part of a criminal offense or it was acquired with proceeds from felony exercise.

That’s extra rigorous than the present normal, which permits seizure based mostly on “preponderance of the proof.” The bottom of requirements, it means solely that it’s extra doubtless than not the property is linked to a criminal offense.

Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, who crafted the modifications, stated the brand new commonplace is acceptable as there isn’t any requirement that somebody be convicted of a criminal offense — and even charged — earlier than prosecutors can attempt to take property.

The change, which takes impact later this yr, additionally will take away some disincentives that now exist for individuals to problem the federal government in the event that they contend their property was wrongly seized.

Underneath the present regulation property house owners are chargeable for their very own authorized charges, even when they win. It is unnecessary, Farnsworth stated, to have to rent an lawyer for $20,000 to get well a car that could be value half that a lot.

The opposite change eliminates the likelihood that a property proprietor who fights forfeiture and loses might be on the hook for the federal government’s prices and authorized charges.

Prosecutors and sheriffs from all through the state had sought a veto.

Ducey, nevertheless, stated, “As public servants, we’re entrusted with not solely defending public security but in addition the rights assured to each citizen of this nice state and nation. Immediately’s essential laws strikes an applicable stability between enabling regulation enforcement to do their jobs whereas upholding civil liberties.”

He was not swayed by prosecutors’ claims it’s going to undermine the power to battle crime. “This invoice will permit regulation enforcement to take applicable motion towards drug cartels and different legal enterprises, whereas making certain residents shouldn’t have their property seized with out due course of,” Ducey stated.

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