A bill that would bar cops from keeping property and cash seized in drug cases when there is no criminal conviction is headed to the House floor.

The House Public Safety Finance Committee signed off on the proposal Thursday.

Under current law, police or sheriffs can keep property, vehicles and cash seized in drug cases or drive-by shootings — regardless of the outcome of the criminal case. If a suspect is found not guilty, they can still lose their property in civil court unless they can prove it was not involved in a crime. The bill would require prosecutors to return the property if there is no criminal conviction associated with the seizure. A companion bill would allow spouses and other innocent owners to raise claims when their property is forfeited due to someone else’s criminal activity.

The signoff came as Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, chaired his final meeting of the House Public Safety Finance Committee. Paymar, an ardent gun control advocate and nine-term legislator, has decided not to seek re-election. 

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