Iowa just became the latest state to reform its civil asset forfeiture laws.
The Iowa legislature recently passed a law that requires a criminal conviction for seizures of property valued under $5,000. The law also raised the standard of proof for all civil asset forfeiture seizures in Iowa.
From The Des Moines Register:
Under Senate File 446, law enforcement could not use civil asset forfeiture to seize property valued at less than $5,000 unless there are criminal charges resulting in a conviction. The bill also increases the standard of proof required for asset forfeiture to “clear and convincing evidence” rather than a preponderance of evidence.
In an effort to increase transparency, the legislation also would require law enforcement agencies to maintain certain records.
Civil asset forfeiture occurs when property is permanently taken from a citizen who has never been convicted of a crime — essentially because law enforcement officers suspect that the property is a tool, or thr proceeds, of a crime.
Nineteen states in recent years have made various reforms to these laws to ensure that citizens’ property rights are being protected.
Unfortunately, Arkansas is not one of those 19 states.
Legislation by state Sen. Linda Collins-Smith that would have required law enforcement to get a criminal conviction before property could be taken through civil asset forfeiture failed in the Senate in the 2017 session.
If you want to learn more about this issue, I’d suggest checking out the Advance Arkansas Institute’s latest paper on this topic.