Recently, states across the country have made numerous reforms concerning civil asset forfeiture, the controversial practice where police can take property from citizens, without even charging them with a crime.
A clear violation of due process, this practice has become a lucrative endeavor for corrupt law enforcement agencies. In 2014 alone, law enforcement agencies seized $4 billion in total assets.
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that at least 11 states—California, Connecticut, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, and Vermont—have passed reforms prohibiting law enforcement from seizing property from people who have not been convicted of a crime. Three states—North Carolina, New Mexico, and Nebraska— have taken it to another level by abolishing civil asset forfeiture altogether.
Hawaii was about to hop on this trend, but last week its Democratic Governor David Ige vetoed House Bill 748, Hawaii’s civil asset forfeiture reform law. This bill would have limited police’s ability to seize property only in cases where a felony conviction has been carried out. Curiously, under civil asset forfeiture, it is the property that is actually “convicted”.
The Hawaii legislature believed that civil asset forfeiture deprives people of their property rights without ever being charged or convicted of any crime. This represents another form of government theft, a stealth tax if you will.
The Institute for Justice (IJ) reports that Hawaii is one of the states with the worst rankings for civil asset forfeiture practices. According to its “Policing for Profit” report, the organization gave Hawaii a “D-“ grade for possessing “low standard of proof,” which mandates “only that the government show by a preponderance of the evidence that property is tied to a crime.”
Additionally, IJ points to the heavy burden placed on citizens to prove that they are connected to a crime that allegedly involves the forfeiture they were involved in.
It’s rather ironic that Democratic states like Hawaii are lagging behind red states when it comes to certain aspects of criminal justice reform like civil asset forfeiture reform.
This goes to show that most Democratic Party talking points are mainly for pandering, not substantive changes in policy. Eventually, Democrats will have to deliver on their rosy rhetoric or their constituents will start questioning their dedication to their causes.