Archive for Wednesday, January 4, 2017

First bill calls for repealing reporting requirements for asset forfeiture

The Kansas Statehouse in Topeka.

The Kansas Statehouse in Topeka.

January 4, 2017


— The first bill to be introduced in the 2017 session of the Kansas Legislature calls for repealing a law that requires local law enforcement agencies to file annual reports about the money and other assets they seize from criminal suspects and what they do with those assets.

The bill was pre-filed in both the House and Senate by the Legislative Committee on Post Audit, which held hearings and received a report over the summer that was highly critical of the state's civil asset forfeiture program.

But it also comes at a time when the state is coming under criticism for that program from people who say it allows law enforcement officials to seize money and property from people they suspect of committing crimes, even though many of the suspects are never charged or convicted of any crime.

"I think it's a terrible idea," said David Smith, an attorney in Alexandria, Va., who practices in the area of civil asset forfeiture law.

Smith represents Salvador Franco Jr., a Las Vegas man who has alleged that the Kansas Highway Patrol seized $32,000 in cash from him during a traffic stop on Interstate 70 in March 2016, even though he has never been charged with a crime.

Franco's case was first reported earlier this week by the Topeka Capital-Journal and was picked up by The Associated Press for publication in other news outlets, including the Journal-World.

Federal prosecutors in Kansas are asking a federal court to declare Franco's money forfeited, in which case it would be divided between the federal government and the Kansas Highway Patrol. But Smith is asking that the money be returned to his client.

The bill grew out of a Post Audit report that was issued in July, as well as an earlier audit in 2000, both of which found, among other things, that virtually no local law enforcement agencies were complying with reporting requirements.

The Lawrence Police Department is one local agency that has filed annual reports, although the most recent one offers little detail about how the money was used.

The Lawrence department provided a copy of its most recent report, dated Feb. 23, 2016, showing the department had received $20,771 from one case over the prior year and that "All proceeds were used for educational purposes."

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office did not immediately respond to questions about its reporting practices.

Under current law, local law enforcement agencies are required to submit annual reports to their governing bodies detailing the type and approximate value of forfeited assets it received and how those proceeds were spent.

The committee looked again at the issue on Sept. 21, when it considered legislation to recommend in the 2017 session. According to the minutes of that meeting, the committee was asked to look at two options: strengthening the reporting requirement or doing away with it altogether.

Those minutes reflect that Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, offered a motion to recommend a bill repealing the requirement and that her motion carried.

During an interview Wednesday, however, Kelly said the recent scrutiny and criticism of civil asset forfeitures may prompt lawmakers to take a different approach.

"I think that story may make people rethink this," Kelly said. That had not happened when we met. I don’t think (the issue) was as clear as the article made it, where the problems are and how we might be stomping on people’s rights. Senate Bill 1 might give us that opportunity."

Smith said that, nationwide, federal prosecutions of civil asset forfeiture cases have declined sharply in recent years, especially during the Obama administration, and that public criticism of those programs has prompted many states to reform their own state laws. But he said Kansas has not been among those states.

"Forfeiture abuse is obviously rampant in Kansas, more so than in almost any state right now because most states have cleaned up their acts," he said.


Theodore Calvin 1 year, 5 months ago

Holy crap people. First the repubs try to destroy the congressional ethics office on the national level, making them less accountable to the voters, and now locally they want to make law enforcement less accountable for their seizure of assets? Does anyone not have a serious problem with this? There were jussst articles in LJ & Capital Journal discussing the improprieties and incredible incentive that law enforcement has to perform overzealous stops. There is no due process and no one is held accountable. How can anyone be ok with this? Even the hard-line right-wing repubs? Isn't this tremendous government overreach and explicit trampling of personal freedoms? Something the right-wing folks are always yelling about... And the reason they want to eliminate the requirements is because police departments aren't following them? WTF?! So make rules, then as they are not followed just eliminate them because you haven't been enforcing them?! WTF?!

Theodore Calvin 1 year, 5 months ago

This is the first thing we worry about in the 2017 legislative session?

Steve King 1 year, 5 months ago

History will reveal the GOPTP of today as scoundrels, Pendergast style.

Melinda Henderson 1 year, 5 months ago

Um, Laura Kelly is a Democrat. "Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka" That's what the "D" stands for.

Hudson Luce 1 year, 5 months ago

Theodore Calvin - As noted below, Laura Kelly is a Democrat from Topeka. This particular outrage is one that neither the GOP nor the TP is responsible for, it's the thoroughly dysfunctional Kansas Democrats behind this.

Theodore Calvin 1 year, 5 months ago

You are correct, it appears my reading comprehension left something to be desired. It doesn't anger me any less. My point was that this is government overreach, regardless of who is doing it.

Sandi Griffin 1 year, 5 months ago

Did I somehow miss that the Kansas Legislature is now run by DEMOCRATS? I thought not. Tho the bill might have been started by a democrat, it was most assuredly agreed to by the majority party that has been stomping on rights for decades now, REPUBLICANS. To think otherwise, and blame the minority party is not only foolish, but downright ignorant as well.....

Diego Tomaso 1 year, 5 months ago

The first bill to be introduced in the 2017 session of the Kansas Legislature. Please note it is bill and not a law. So until you can prove that Republicans in the Kansas Legislature voted this bill into a law, however again it was introduced by a Democrat

Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

Let's talk about other conservative UNETHICAL behavior as well .....

Conservatives are the reason Social Security and Medicare should be saved FOREVER and left alone if not improved as necessary.

Conservative administrations kill employment,retirement plans,economies thus effectively wiping out medical coverage for millions upon millions.

Conservative Mitt Romney and his business associates have been doing the same thing for years by way of tricky leveraged buyout loans of course financed with risky loans from big banks and such.


--- The Reagan/Bush Savings and Loan Heist

--- The Bush/Cheney Wall Street Home Loan Heist

--- What happened to the $700 billion of bank bail out money?

--- Why did GW Bush Lie About Social Security?( This would cost taxpayers $4 trillion,place taxpayers insurance money at risk and wreck the economy)

--- Still A Bad Idea –The GOP ENTITLEMENT Package for the wealtiest 1%.

Diego Tomaso 1 year, 5 months ago

Sen. Laura Kelly, Democrat-Topeka, offered a motion to recommend a bill repealing the requirement and that her motion carried

Calvin Anders 1 year, 5 months ago

This really should be a no brainer as a non-partisan issue. Civil forfeiture should offend conservatives and liberals. And Sen. Kelly's terrific idea is that if people are upset about an obvious injustice the solution is to hide the problem so people will no know how bad it is. Her idea to fix the problem was actually to remove accountability and transparency. No paper trail, and the cops can steal as much as they like and no one can question how much they are taking and what they spend it on. Well, civil forfeiture laws are just a means for law enforcement to bully and steal without having to provide any evidence of wrongdoing. I do wish, I little bit, that Sen. Kelley was a Democrat because I do like to rant about how corrupt and dim our State's Republican legislature is. But, as Sen. Kelly illustrates, the Democrats are not always very smart either. I hope that the spotlight this and other recent stories have cast on this issue will push legislators to get rid of civil forfeiture laws that allow law enforcement to keep property without a conviction. Other states are beginning to move in that direction.

Byrne Berggren 1 year, 5 months ago

Civil forfeiture is and has always been, and always will be illegal according to the U.S. Constitution. Just because some bureaucrat or politician says it's legal does not make it so. The police community is "aghast" at why they are shown no respect nationwide... well, when you, who are sworn to protect and serve, are more of a threat to me than the local drug dealer, a threat to my personal liberties and Constitutionally guaranteed right of protection, you become deserving of NONE of my respect.

You see people harping about the 2nd amendment and how it exists so individuals can protect themselves against criminals.... YOU ARE WRONG. The 2nd amendment is there so the citizens can protect themselves against a tyrannical government and when actions like wholesale robbery from the police are condoned and encouraged by our government, that to me sir, is the textbook definition of a Tyrannical government.

A recent Washington Post investigation revealed that since 2001, law enforcement seized cash worth more than $2.5 billion from motorists and others without first obtaining search warrants or indictments, and that in 80 percent of those cases, the property owners were never charged with crimes.

Calvin Anders 1 year, 5 months ago

It would be nice for LJW to provide more than one year of disclosures from the Lawrence PD on Civil Forfeitures. And how about Sheriff's office for Douglas county? It would also be great to see a breakdown of which law enforcement groups in Kansas have their hands deepest in the till. Is it KHP? What about KBI? Any particular cities or counties that are especially greedy? I know LJW as done some good reporting on civil forfeiture in the past, but I'd like to see more. And I have the vague impression that Lawrence PD is fairly restrained in their exploitation of civil forfeiture, but it would be nice to have more detail to confirm. Any web sites that already provide some of these stats?

David Bonfiglio 1 year, 5 months ago

First on the Agenda: Less transparency. That is poor governance.

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