In Kansas, Governor Jeff Coyler has signed a bill into law imposing strict reporting requirements on law enforcement in cases of civil asset forfeiture. The changes bring transparency to the state’s forfeiture procedures and may lead to further reforms.
In a statement, Coyler said the new law, “will allow us to better protect Kansans’ property rights while also ensuring law enforcement have the tools they need to be effective.”
State Rep. Gail Finney (D–Wichita), who spearheaded the state’s reform, says the law represents a good first step but that more far-reaching changes will be needed.
“This bill has been a journey for me for several years, since some of my constituents had come to me and said their property had been seized by law enforcement,” says Finney.
While welcoming the law, she remains concerned about the burden placed on people whose property is seized by the state. “This puts a heavy weight on citizens because sometimes they don’t have the resources to fight.”
The reforms are the result of a 2016 investigation into the state’s civil asset forfeiture policies requested by Finney. The investigation revealed law enforcement was not keeping proper track of the proceeds of forfeiture. Further, some local agencies were not in compliance with the state’s requirement to keep detailed records both of property seized and how the proceeds of this property were spent.
The new law means all law enforcement agencies will need to report the location, date, and value of seized assets. They will also be required to report if criminal charges were filed in conjunction with the seizures. Agencies will also have to account for the expenditures from the proceeds of civil asset forfeiture.
In addition, the new law has stronger requirements to notify defendants about proceedings in cases of forfeiture. Defendants will now have 60 days to respond to these notices, up from 30 days before the new law comes into force.
According to Senior Legislative Counsel Lee McGrath of the Institute for Justice, “Kansas now has one of the best forfeiture transparency laws in the Midwest.”
However, Finney stresses that while transparency will improve as a result of this bill, it does not reform the underlying practice of civil asset forfeiture in Kansas where police can seize property from an individual if they suspect it is connected to criminal activity. There is no requirement for criminal charges to be filed in cases of civil asset forfeiture.
“The bill does not go far enough to help protect rights and due process of citizens,” says Finney. “Kansas will still be subjected to their property being seized and forfeited on the mere suspicion that a crime has taken place without any arrest, charge, or conviction of a crime.”
Supporters of the new law argue it will provide lawmakers with a foundation of facts for possible further reforms. “Accurate data will not only dispel erroneous or partial information on the forfeiture activity in Kansas, but will also offer information in the future to assure legislative changes are needed,” says Sheriff Jeff Easter of Sedgwick County.
State Rep. Rick Wilborn (R–McPherson) agrees. “From there, we can draw conclusions and move forward with improved legislation in years to come,” he says.
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.
Image of Kansas State Trooper by Non-dropframe.