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Counter Point: Alabama Officials’ Plea to Preserve Civil Asset Forfeiture

mcveighsutton-1-300x224With all of the controversy revolving around civil asset forfeiture in recent years, support for such policies is hard to find. In fact, any story that mentions the policies is almost sure to talk about a grave injustice has been done to the victim of the forfeiture.

To be sure, the actual of examples of abuse of civil asset forfeiture laws are plentiful. However, that does not stop proponents of civil asset forfeiture from remaining adamant that the laws are an overall good for society. An Alabama District Attorney and an Alabama Sheriff are the latest to speak out in defense of civil asset forfeiture, which comes as the Alabama Legislature begins considering legislation that would drastically change the way civil asset forfeitures are handled in Alabama in favor of civilians.

Alabama officials Brian McVeigh and Dave Sutton wrote a combined column in defense of civil asset forfeiture on AL.com, an Alabama news website managed by the Alabama Media Group. McVeigh is the Calhoun County District Attorney and president of the Alabama District Attorneys Association, and Sutton is the Sheriff of Coffee County, and president of the Alabama Sheriffs Association, giving their combined column a fair representation of the opinions permeating the upper echelons of Alabama law enforcement.

To start off their article, titled Don’t gut civil asset forfeiture, the pair lays out their reasoning for defending civil asset forfeiture in ways that opponents of the policies have probably heard many times before – that although the changes proposed in legislature are “well-meaning,” they would ultimately “gut what is an effective crime-fighting tool while making it easier for drug dealers and other criminals to hang on to their ill-gotten gains.”

The authors lament that “special interest groups” have established what they say is a “narrative that law enforcement – police, sheriffs, and other authorities – are using civil asset forfeiture to unfairly take money and property from innocent Alabamians.” That narrative, they say, is false. “Law enforcement uses civil asset forfeiture only to go after criminals, and state law already guarantees a process that is clear and fair for any person to challenge forfeiture in court.”

If that is the case, then the Institute for Justice (a libertarian, civil liberties, and public interest law firm) is apparently unaware. The Institute for Justice has a grading system for all of the states in the USA, rating Alabama among the “worst in the nation” with a D- grade for its policies. The reasons cited for the grade include:

  • Low bar to forfeit and no conviction required
  • Limited protections for innocent third-party property owners
  • 100% of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement

That last point, that 100% of proceeds go to law enforcement, is a common complaint from critics of civil asset forfeiture, but it seems to be one of the main reasons that McVeigh and Sutton want to keep the current policies intact. After all, they say, “What incentive would local police and sheriffs have to invest manpower, resources and time in [drug and stolen property ring] operations if they don’t receive proceeds to cover their costs?”

Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney

If your lawful property has been seized, then you should hire a lawyer. Contact us to set up a free initial consultation and work with one of Florida’s most experienced civil forfeiture defense attorneys.

Sources:

Don’t gut civil asset forfeiture

Policing for Profit: Alabama