Florida’s House voted unanimously Tuesday to pass a bill to reform the state’s “Contraband Forfeiture Act.” This followed unanimous approval in the Senate last week. It’s now over to Governor Rick Scott to sign the bill into law.
Civil asset forfeiture allows police to seize assets from an individual who is merely accused of a crime, creating a conflict of interest for law enforcement and encouraging widespread corruption and abuse.
With Gov. Scott’s signature, Floridians will be less vulnerable to being deprived of their property without due process.
One impressive thing about the campaign behind the bill is the diversity of its supporters—including “usual suspects” like the Drug Policy Alliance and the ACLU, but also organizations like Americans for Tax Reform, the Florida Sheriffs Association and the Florida Police Chiefs Association.
The Florida Sheriffs Association, the state’s largest law enforcement organization, gave glowing praise for the reform, according to a DPA press release: “Current HB 889/SB 1044 strikes an important balance addressing the needs of law enforcement to prevent criminals from profiting from their illegal acts while strengthening the property rights of citizens… We support SB 1044 passed by the Senate and House and we encourage Governor Scott to sign this legislation into law.”
“A year ago, I wouldn’t have believed someone who told me a reform of Florida’s civil asset forfeiture laws was possible,” says Ethan Nadelmann, DPA’s executive director. “Today we’ve seen unanimous votes in both houses of its legislature in the space of less than a week. More work remains to fully protect the rights of Floridians but these reforms are significant. The Governor should look to the unanimity of the legislature and sign these reforms into law as soon as he can.”
It is to be hoped that other states will follow suit.