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Lawmaker Proposes Changes To Civil Asset Forfeiture

Bill Would Bar Law Enforcement From Seizing Property Prior To Conviction

Wisconsin State Capitol
Justin Kern (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A state lawmaker wants to make sure law enforcement can only seize property from convicted criminals in Wisconsin.

Law enforcement can currently seize property from people suspected of committing crimes through a process called civil asset forfeiture, but a new plan from Sen. David Craig, R-Big Bend, would allow law enforcement to seize property only from convicted criminals.

“I think most people would have a jaw on the floor reaction if you told them that their property could be taken from them without ever being convicted of a crime,” said Craig.

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The bill would also set standards for how property should be returned to people who have been wrongly accused. It also puts some limitations of how federal and local law enforcement can coordinate on forfeiture cases.

Craig introduced a similar bill last session, but it didn’t pass.

The Wisconsin Professional Police Association opposes the plan. According to the association, seizing property is an important tool to fight crime, and the bill would make it harder for law enforcement to do their jobs.

“To require that a conviction has to go through before the property can be seized simply allows criminals to continue to use property that has likely been used in the commission of a crime and to dispose of property,” said Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association.

Craig has garnered bipartisan support for the bill. Sen. Stephen Nass, R-Whitewater, and Sen. Robert Wirch, D-Kenosha, have signed on as co-sponsors in the state Senate.