Forfeiture Reform Bill Moving Along in Texas Legislature
Its overhauling is a hot button issue with civil libertarians, good government reformers and anyone with a general distaste for authoritarian overreach. A bill to limit the ability of government in Texas from using civil forfeiture laws to confiscate property have made real progress in the current session of the Texas Legislature.
Under existing laws, authorities have wide latitude in seizing property involved in criminal activity. The thing is, there have been horror stories involving abuse of power by local authorities in confiscating the property of people who had not been convicted of any crime.
As you might expect, there are some "get tough on crime" folks who like the idea of her wresting property away from those who may or may not be involved. And I'm using the word property in its broadest sense: there have been forfeitures consisting of the entire families' savings and contents of houses just because the authorities can petition the court without a conviction. There have been cases where people have been totally exonerated of crimes yet their belongings have been taken from them and never returned.
Although at one time Texas did not seem receptive to any position which may be seen as coddling criminals or being soft , in recent years the state has been a center for libertarian views on the issue largely due to the efforts to spread the liberty gospel by high profile former congressman Dr. Ron Paul (R). The idea of reform has been adopted by members of both parties in the state legislature. The boldest bill of all has been filed by Senator Konni Burton (R - Colleyville) who proposes in a recently filed piece of legislation to eliminate civil asset forfeiture altogether replacing it with a criminal asset forfeiture process.
In case you're wondering about the potential for abuse in the civil forfeiture process, advocacy group Institute for Justice has produced a video on the topic. Some law and order types may object to the direction of the video but it's better than anything out there in explaining the issue.