Minnesota’s civil asset forfeiture law could be wiped out under legislation that has won the backing of lawmakers from across the political spectrum.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, would limit government seizures of money or property to criminal cases, and then only after a conviction. Under existing law, authorities can take property from suspects without a court order, with property owners forced to file suit to regain their belongings — even in cases where they have not been charged with a crime.
The measure is advancing in the Legislature one month after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution’s ban on excessive fines also applies to the states. It has backing from both progressive groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the conservative Americans for Prosperity.
But not everyone is happy.
Testifying before a Senate committee last week, Faribault Police Chief Andy Bohlen said the measure would dismantle law enforcement’s ability to use seized funds to disrupt Mexican cartel operations that continue to funnel record amounts of methamphetamine and heroin into the state.
But Newman stressed the importance of protecting the due process rights of citizens who have lost property without being convicted of a crime.
“In this day and age — as divided as our society is — I think we need more due process, not less,” Newman said.