State Senate votes to reform controversial practice of civil asset forfeiture

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The Alabama Senate on Wednesday voted 25-1 to reform one of the state’s most controversial practices — civil asset forfeiture.

Civil asset forfeiture allows police to seize — and then keep or sell — any property they suspect is part of criminal activity. 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.

Which is Birmingham-Republican state Rep. Arnold Mooney introduced to HB518, to try and help improve the often unchecked, and unfair process.

HB518 creates the Forfeiture Database and Reporting Act, which would require law enforcement to report information including the date of property seizure, the type of property seized, the place of the seizure, the value of the seizure, the alleged criminal offense that led to the seizure, as well as the outcomes of criminal cases related to seizure when applicable.

Mooney had originally introduced a bill HB287 — along a companion bill in the Senate, SB213, introduced by his colleague Decatur-Republican State Sen. Arthur Orr — that would have required a criminal conviction for property seizures. But the bills ultimately went nowhere due to pushback from prosecutors and law enforcement officers who argued the seizures are a valuable crime-fighting tool.

The bill now moves to the State House.

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