Last year, in the second highest downloaded episode on the podcast, Bob introduced you to the crazy case of an elderly couple, their son and their car -- how the government seized it, even though they were innocent. Bob also introduced you to Paul Avelar, Managing Attorney of the Institute for Justice Arizona Office who represented them in trying to get their car back, and later represented a truck driver who had a massive amount of cash seized for the simple reason that he came to Arizona with a lot of cash (to purchase a truck)!
Avelar was a key player in helping drive Arizona's new bipartisan civil asset forfeiture reform law, HB 2810.
"Civil forfeiture threatens everyone's property and due process rights," Avelar told reason.com: "The government can take your car, your home, and your life savings without ever charging you with a crime, much less convicting you. HB 2810 makes important reforms to Arizona's forfeiture laws to protect innocent property owners from government abuse."
As Bob told you then, civil forfeiture is "based on the legal fiction that property can be guilty even when its owner is innocent.” It allows the government to confiscate your assets without your ever being accused of a crime, let alone being convicted. It's big business nationwide, and the forfeiture funds are often used for funding policing tools, leading to the term "Policing for Profit!"
Arizona's new H.B. 2810 addresses that problem by requiring a criminal conviction prior to forfeiture in most cases.
Under the law, property can still be seized based on probable cause to believe it was used to commit a crime or represents the proceeds of illegal activity. But now the government can complete the forfeiture only after convicting the owner. That new rule applies to all forfeitures except when the owner has died or fled, no longer lives in the United States, has abandoned the property, has agreed to surrender it as part of a plea deal, or has received immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony.
The law also addresses roadside waivers, where holders of property or cash were often bullied into signing away their property or cash in order to not be arrested.
Does the law go far enough? How close is Arizona's law to the New Mexico "Gold Standard," for protecting citizens from unlawful or unfair seizure? Listen now and find out!