Asset Forfeiture Reform, Drug Decriminalization News
|January 9, 2007||Posted by Staff under Archive, Progress Report, The Progress Report|
A Victory for Civil Rights
Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill Passes By Wide Margin
The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 1999, a bill sponsored by Reps. Henry Hyde (R-IL), John Conyers (D-MI), Bob Barr (R-GA) and Barney Frank (D-MA), sailed through the House of Representatives by a 375-48 margin at 5:05pm on June 24.
“This is the most important property-rights legislation to come out of the House this year,” said Drug Policy Foundation Senior Policy Analyst Scott Ehlers. “Americans are a step closer to being protected from some of the worst abuses of police power.”
Ehlers said that proponents of the bill were hoping that it would pass by a wide enough margin for the Senate to take notice. “The House has clearly and resoundingly said that property rights are important and that the Senate should pass this bill.”
An amendment by Reps. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) and Anthony Weiner (D-NY), which would have undermined H.R. 1658 and actually worsened civil asset forfeiture laws, failed by a 268- 155 vote.
H.R. 1658, as passed by the House, would make numerous changes to civil forfeiture law, including:
- * Forcing the government to prove that seized property is related to a crime, as opposed to the current practice of the owners’ having to prove that their property is not guilty; * Creating an “innocent owner” defense, whereby property owners unaware of criminal activity occurring on their property could recover their property;
* Providing indigent defendants with appointed counsel; and
* Eliminating the cost-bond requirement, which currently requires property owners to pay up to $5,000 or 10 percent of the seized property’s value in order to contest the seizure in court.
Additional News — Governor of New Mexico Calls Drug War “Failed”
Gary Johnson, Republican Governor of New Mexico, ignited a firestorm in his state on Wednesday (6/23) by calling for a re-examination of the failed drug war and a discussion of alternatives, including decriminalization.
“It (the drug war) needs to get talked about,” he said in an interview, “and one of the things that’s going to get talked about is decriminalization. We really need to put all options on the table.”
Johnson, who said that the drug war was a “miserable failure” that “hasn’t worked,” noted that “the drug problem is getting worse. It’s not getting better.”
Commented the Drug Policy Foundation: “Governor Johnson is absolutely correct about the failure of the so-called drug war. Prohibition has caused more problems than the policy has solved. It has corrupted our nation and it insures that our children have access to substances that we cannot possibly control in a black market.”
Johnson, who is 46 years-old and is the father of two teenage children, has previously acknowledged that he had used marijuana, and occasionally cocaine while in college. Now an avid triathlon, he stopped using drugs in his early 20′s and has not used alcohol in 12 years.
“What I did was criminal,” he said, “and yet those people that I knew that did the same and those that still do it today, I don’t consider them criminals.”
IF YOU WISH TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE: Write to Governor Johnson and let him know that you appreciate his political courage — especially if you’re from New Mexico. If you have family or friends in New Mexico, urge them to call. The Governor’s number is (505) 827-3000, or you can write to Governor Gary E. Johnson, Office of the Governor, State Capitol Building, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87503, or comment through the net at . His office needs to hear from people, especially constituents, so Governor Johnson will know there is support for what he is trying to accomplish.
Also, submit letters to the editor to the Albuquerque Journal at firstname.lastname@example.org, fax to (505) 823-3812, or mail to: Letters to the Editor, The Albuquerque Journal, P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, NM 87103. Your letter needs to include your name, address and phone number, and your signature if using fax or snail-mail. It should probably be under 200 words, to have the best chance of getting printed.
This update on asset forfeiture reform comes from the Drug Policy Foundation, http://www.dpf.org
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