Conservative institute wants police seizures reined in

Posted at 14:00 on September 27, 2017

The Brillion News

MADISON – The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), a constitutional advocacy think tank, is calling for reforms to rein in the use of civil forfeitures by police agencies.

WILL defines civil forfeiture as “a procedure whereby a law enforcement agency can seize and retain certain assets, like cash or a car, if there is a reasonable suspicion that those assets were employed in the commission of a crime.”

But, in many cases, police keep the property even if the criminal charges are never proven, and even when charges are never even filed. WILL said those abuses of power force innocent people to fight in court to get property that was seized from them.

“In many cases, the fight is an uphill one, requiring significant legal fees and other costs that many innocent individuals can ill afford,” WILL said in a policy brief.

The state currently allows civil forfeitures of assets without a criminal conviction; it requires minimal proof to justify a seizure; and the government is not required to track civil forfeitures.

WILL is calling for the state legislature to fix these three flaws in Wisconsin’s civil forfeiture statutes by:

  1. Requiring a criminal conviction for police to seize property.

  2. Raising the burden of proof for legal seizures beyond the current “preponderance of evidence.”

  3. Creating mandatory public reporting of all seizures by police agencies.

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