Institute for Justice · April 20, 2016

Today, Institute for Justice Legislative Counsel Lee McGrath released the following statement on Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts signing 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. Today’s decision to abolish civil forfeiture 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 the governor sign a bill that bans transferring seized property in joint task forces or by adoption  to federal law enforcement, unless it includes cash or property worth more than $25,000. For too long, local and state law enforcement have used equitable sharing to bypass Nebraska state law because the federal governments offers substantially higher payouts to law enforcement than what law enforcement receives under state law and is allowed by the Nebraska Constitution.”

Nebraska is now the tenth state to require a criminal conviction as a prerequisite for most or all forfeiture cases. Nebraska also joins New Mexico and the District of Columbia in taking significant action to opt out of equitable sharing. LB 1106 was sponsored by Sen. Tommy Garrett and passed the Nebraska Legislature by a vote of 38 to 8 last week.

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.