Jacob Sullum of Hit and Run
spotted this news item
about Oregon's attempts to reform asset forfeiture in their state. I previously wrote about asset forfeiture's roots and mechanics here
. Here's what Oregon tried to do...
The 2000 law, known as Measure 3, raised the bar, requiring police to get a criminal conviction before they could pursue a forfeiture. It also tightened the rules on what is subject to forfeiture, effectively slashing the amounts police could claim and cutting off a major source of funding for narcotics investigations.
The Lincoln County Interagency Narcotics Team sued to have the law overturned. They won at the appellate court level, but the Oregon Supreme Court upheld the law in a 4-3 decision. Many are celebrating...
David Fidanque of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon called Thursday's ruling "great news" and a big step toward protecting people from unjustified seizures of their property.
"This ensures that as we try to take the profit out of crime that we only seize property from criminals," Fidanque said. "Prior to Measure 3, the complete burden was on the property owner to prove their innocence."
Others are not...
But a law enforcement official, Rob Bovett, lawyer for the Lincoln Interagency Narcotics Team, called the ruling a disappointment and said Measure 3 has hurt the fight against Oregon's methamphetamine problem.
Measure 3 "has helped to dismantle or cripple many Oregon drug task forces at the most critical time in our meth epidemic," he said, and it has "let convicted meth dealers keep much of their ill-gotten gains."
Personally, I'm on the side of the ACLU on this one. I'd like to know that the seized assets belonged to actual criminals. Otherwise, the threat for abuse is quite high.