By TJ Martinell
One thing Californians agree on is their opposition to laws that allow law enforcement to seize and keep people’s cash and property merely for being suspects of a crime, also known as asset forfeiture (learn more here).
That’s according to a two new surveys by the Public Policy Polling. The surveys found “overwhelming statewide and local opposition” to asset forfeiture laws. Over two-thirds of voters surveyed (82 percent) opposed these laws compared to 14 percent in favor of them.
Opposition to asset forfeiture also transcended party lines. Roughly the same amount of Democrats, Republicans and independents expressed aversion to the idea that our property rights don’t apply when someone is suspected of crime – even if they’re never convicted.
Their support is not due to voter ignorance, as PPP also found that “opposition to civil asset forfeiture laws strengthens as voters learn more about them” and very few changed their minds after hearing law enforcement arguments justifying these laws. Maybe that’s because 17 percent of those surveyed knew someone who had lost property to police without a conviction.
Although California has asset forfeiture restrictions, a loophole allows local police to pass off cases to the federal government, while still getting up to 80 percent of the proceeds obtained through civil forfeiture.
A bill introduced last year in the California state Senate would rein in these practices by law enforcement agencies. After passing the Senate by a wide margin, SB 443 was hit by massive opposition and delays in the Assembly. It was pulled from the “inactive file” this week and a final Assembly vote is expected in coming days.
California residents should contact their Assemblymember and insist the loophole be closed once and for all.
There’s also a Facebook group to support SB443 – HERE.