Texas Police Can Take Your Property Without a Conviction

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has announced an end to the practice of police seizing people’s assets without charging them with a crime. Here’s why that won’t change much in Texas.

By Rhonda Fanning and David BrownJanuary 23, 2015 12:04 pm|

Last week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder took a unilateral step that has been called by some the biggest civil rights reform in years. Holder announced an end to the practice of civil forfeiture – police seizing people’s assets without charging them with a crime.

Robert Everett Johnson, a Washington based attorney at the Institute for Justice, recently told Texas Standard that won’t change much in Texas.

“This is true for really two reasons. The first is that it doesn’t affect seizures under state law. Partly that’s because the DOJ [Department of Justice] simply can’t stop seizures under state law,” Johnson said. “The second reason is that the reform doesn’t affect seizures by joint-task forces involving both state and federal officials.”

While reform is slow, Virginia has proposed a bill that would eliminate civil forfeiture entirely. The bill would require that anyone who has been targeted for forfeiture must be convicted of a crime.

Reform is not limited to the state level as Johnson says, “There is also momentum to propose reform in this term here in congress at the federal level.”

Other states have also begun looking at what he calls, “…an issue that is ripe for reform.”

In the coming year, Johnson hopes to see progress as people become more aware of the problems with forfeiture.

 

This story was prepared with assistance by Brenda Lau.

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Officers search vehicle after a traffic stop. Police have wide discretion to seize property.