Legislator Wants to Protect Public from Civil Asset Seizure Laws, Says They’re ‘All Backwards’

Sen. Konni Burton (R-Colleyville) says the government is infringing on the rights of innocent victims.

By Rhonda Fanning & Michael MarksFebruary 9, 2017 1:06 pm

President Donald Trump said in a meeting Tuesday that he would “destroy” the career of a Texas state senator who was pushing for legislation to change current civil asset forfeiture laws in the state.

Trump was meeting with sheriffs from around the country when Rockwall County Sheriff Harold Eavenson commented that an unnamed senator was seeking to require a person to be convicted of a crime before the state could seize any of their assets.

Texas Sens. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen) and Konni Burton (R-Colleyville) have both filed bills that would overhaul the forfeiture system.Eavenson later confirmed the unnamed individual was male, leaving people to believe the sheriff was talking about Hinojosa.

Hinojosa told the Dallas Morning News that he doesn’t know the sheriff and doesn’t believe he is the target of Trump’s remarks.

“Quite frankly, I don’t pay much attention to what Trump says anymore,” Hinojosa said.

Hinojosa’s bill, Senate Bill 156 would amend the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure to say that after a state has seized assets a state attorney must provide “clear and convincing evidence” that the property is subject to forfeiture. His bill also would make it unlawful for the seized property to be transferred to the federal government, with a few exceptions.

Burton’s bill, Senate Bill 380, would protect against any wrongful seizure of property unless a person is convicted for an offense that is subject to forfeiture.

Burton says she doesn’t think that’s too much to ask.

“The government should not be able to take and keep somebody’s property and then that person has to prove that they didn’t do what they are accused of,” she says. “It’s all backwards in this particular issue.”

But Burton says her bill isn’t meant to be divisive.

“It’s not that I don’t want law enforcement to have the tools that they need to have to get the bad guys,” she says. “[However] what government is supposed to do is protect the rights of its citizens and this clearly infringes on it. And so when you got the ability … of government infringing on the rights of innocent victims, there’s something wrong with that and that’s why I want to fix it.”

Burton says that she became interested in pushing this legislation forward after hearing that property seizure was affecting a lot of people in her district.

“It’s talked about quite a bit and it was something that I frankly wasn’t aware of years ago, before I got involved in politics,” she says. “Somehow, someway I became of aware of it and was just infinitely shocked and couldn’t believe that we have this in place.”

Written by Beth Cortez-Neavel.