Governor Signs Asset Forfeiture Reform
Gov. Burgum has signed the last bills remaining from the recent legislative session, including one reforming civil asset forfeiture.
The Bismarck Tribune reports the governor signed the bill Thursday. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Rick Becker, said the bill was designed to to eliminate the "perverse incentive" of "policing for profit."
In a curious coalition, small-goverment conservatives and civil libertarians have long opposed asset forfeiture laws which they say unfairly "punish" the innocent. The American Civil Liberties Union describes it thus:
"Civil forfeiture allows police to seize — and then keep or sell — any property they allege is involved in a crime. Owners need not ever be arrested or convicted of a crime for their cash, cars, or even real estate to be taken away permanently by the government."
The ACLU notes that civil forfeiture was originally presented as a way to cripple "large-scale criminal enterprises" by diverting resources. 'But today, aided by deeply flawed federal and state laws, many police departments use forfeiture to benefit their bottom lines, making seizures motivated by profit rather than crime-fighting."