Pubdate: Thu, 04 Apr 2002
Source: Colorado Springs Independent Newsweekly (CO)
Copyright: 2002 Colorado Springs Independent
Author: Robert Wiley
Bookmark: (Asset Forfeiture)


To the Editor:

Colorado's forfeiture statutes were designed to take assets from drug 
kingpins and use the proceeds to fight crime. Initially this was a noble 
cause, but the statutes have created very negative and unintended 
consequences. They allow courts to take property from people who have not 
been convicted or even charged with a crime.

When law enforcement does not have enough evidence to obtain a criminal 
conviction, it is much easier to proceed with a civil asset seizure. Civil 
matters are easier to prosecute because they do not risk incarceration of 
the property owner.

Our constitutional Bill of Rights protections apply only to the individual, 
not his property. In civil asset forfeiture, the property itself, rather 
than its owner, is charged with the offense of being involved in an illegal 

Under current civil forfeiture laws there is no presumption of innocence 
until proven guilty; no right to a trial by jury; no right to appointment 
of an attorney for indigent owners and no protections against double jeopardy.

Colorado's House Bill 1404 will assure property owners a greater degree of 
protection and will require clear and convincing evidence before forfeiture 
can proceed. Money and property seized will be used to support substance 
abuse treatment and prevention programs with a 25 percent bounty going to 
the seizing agency.

The current system allows law enforcement to keep all of the money and some 
agencies are not even required to report what they have seized!

Property ownership is a fundamental condition of our free society. Let's 
not sacrifice any more of our constitutional protections to the misdirected 
and counterproductive war on drugs.

Robert Wiley

Colorado Springs
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