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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: March 6, 2017 01:47 PM
From: Representative Kate Harper and Rep. Joanna E. McClinton
To: All House members
Subject: Civil Forfeitures
In the near future we plan to introduce a bill that will ensure due process is afforded to an individual when a prosecutor seeks a court order of civil forfeiture against their home. There have been many instances where homeowners have faced the possibility of losing their home as a result of drug sales committed by a third party, even though the homeowner is not charged with any crime. Under current law, a prosecutor need only show that the property was used in the commission of the offense and the burden shifts to the homeowner to prove that he or she is an “innocent owner”, that is, that they neither took part in the crime nor consented to it.

Often, a homeowner must hire counsel at their own expense. If they cannot afford to do so, they face a distinct disadvantage. Also, current law allows the prosecutor to seize the property and evict the owner while the forfeiture action proceeds.

This bill will prohibit pre-forfeiture seizure unless the court finds that nothing less will ensure the property is available in the same condition if forfeiture is ordered. Except in an emergency, the court will be required to notify the claimant and afford an opportunity to be heard on that issue. The bill will also require the court to appoint counsel to represent an indigent owner if the owner or a family member resides in the home and has not been charged.

Though this bill is not a comprehensive re-write of the civil forfeiture rules, it address the most serious kind of forfeiture - where an individual faces the loss of their home due to the actions of others. I hope you will join by co-sponsoring this legislation.

Introduced as HB1155