Today, Institute for Justice Legislative Counsel Lee McGrath released the following statement on the Nebraska Legislature passing LB 1106, a sweeping reform of the state’s forfeiture laws:
“Civil forfeiture is one of the most serious assaults on due process and private property rights in America today. By passing LB 1106, lawmakers will ensure that only convicted criminals—and not innocent Nebraskans—lose their property to forfeiture.”
“In light of the U.S. Justice Department’s misguided decision to revive its controversial ‘equitable sharing’ program, it is encouraging to see state legislators put on Gov. Pete Rickett’s desk a bill that bans transferring any seized property to federal law enforcement, unless it includes cash in excess of $25,000 or property worth more than $25,000. For too long, equitable sharing has bypassed Nebraska state law, by offering substantially higher payouts to law enforcement than what the Nebraska Constitution allows.”
Should the governor sign the bill, sponsored by Sen. Tommy Garrett, Nebraska would become the tenth state to require a criminal conviction as a prerequisite for most or all forfeiture cases. Nebraska would also join New Mexico and the District of Columbia in taking significant action to opt out of equitable sharing.
A November 2015 report by the Institute for Justice, Policing for Profit, found that between 2000 and 2013, the Justice Department paid local and state agencies in Nebraska more than $48.3 million in equitable-sharing proceeds. In 2013, out of all properties seized for equitable sharing in Nebraska, 78 percent were valued at under $25,000.