Yesterday, the Idaho Senate unanimously approved a bill to tighten the state’s civil forfeiture laws. Civil forfeiture allows law enforcement agencies to permanently confiscate and keep property without charging anyone with—let alone convicting them of—a crime. Even worse, Idaho received failing grades from the Institute for Justice for its utter lack of forfeiture transparency and accountability.
“Idaho’s reform would create new safeguards for the innocent and shine a light on many abusive practices, empowering citizens and lawmakers alike to hold law enforcement accountable,” said Institute for Justice Attorney and Idaho native Dan Alban. “This bill would balance the needs of law enforcement with the need to better protect the private property rights of Idahoans. We urge the governor to sign this common-sense, bipartisan reform.”
If enacted, HB 447 would:
- Require agencies to report if they charged the owners when seizing property, if seized property was returned or forfeited, and the value of the forfeited property.
- Ban vehicle forfeitures based on nothing more than minor drug possession.
- Set up a “replevin” process to allow owners to use their property while the forfeiture case was ongoing (excluding items taken for evidence).
- Allow courts to reject or reduce forfeitures that are excessive and disproportionate.
HB 447 received widespread bipartisan support, passing both chambers of the Idaho State Legislature without a single vote against it, and has earned praise from the ACLU of Idaho and the Idaho Freedom Foundation. In the past four years, 25 states have reformed their civil forfeiture laws, including Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.