Police officers throughout the state of California will now have to work a little bit diligently to steal from those who are caught for drug-related crimes.
This past week, Governor Jerry Brown approved a piece of legislation into law (Senate Bill 443) that will require the state’s law enforcement agencies to ensure a conviction against a suspect prior taking over permanent possession of cash, cars, homes and other valuable assets. The law, which was first introduced by Senator Holly Mitchell and Assembly member David Hadley, is intended to stop overzealous policemen from using poor shakedown tactics against the average drug user to make additional revenue.
Law enforcement across California was previously allowed to set claims to money and personal belongings if they had cause to believe those items were used in or obtained through criminal activity. However, the new law takes some of the ridiculousness out of the situation by forcing all civil asset forfeiture cases involving money under $40,000 to end in a person being proven guilty of a crime—before the cops have the authority to keep their cash.
Statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Justice display that most of the people who have been screwed over by the nation’s civil asset forfeiture laws were busted holding well under the $40,000.
“The new law establishes some of the strongest property rights protections in the most populous state in the nation,” Theshia Naidoo, legal director of criminal justice at the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. “The reforms are a model not only because of the policy enacted, but also for how the legislative process should work to promote the best interests of Californians.”
A similar law made an effort to be passed just last year, but various branches of law enforcement were adamantly opposed to the language, going as far as to send a letter to members of the General Assembly pleading with them not to place a favorable vote. But, after some extensive negotiations, the state’s leading police organizations finally backed off.
Last year, the Institute for Justice found that California cops used the federal civil asset forfeiture law to rake in around $696 million between 2000 and 2013—around $50 million per year. A 2013 report from the Drug Policy Alliance shows the average cash seizure in California is roughly $5,100.
The new law, which is has been planned to take effect at the start of 2017, will still allow law enforcement to keep the cash of drug dealers caught in possession of over the $40,000 limit. Its primary focus is to prevent those people in a low-income bracket from losing everything they own as a result of a minor drug offense.
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