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Articles Tagged with accountability

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maine-551993_1920-300x225Law enforcement agencies in Maine may be breaking the law by failing to report property and cash taken during civil asset forfeitures. These agencies are also required to deposit the proceeds of forfeitures in the state’s general fund, but instead are keeping almost all of it for themselves, sources allege.

Civil asset forfeiture is the process where police can take an individual’s assets if they are suspected of being used in a crime. In most states, a criminal conviction is not necessary for property to be taken. In Maine, while the Office of the Attorney General is required to show that seized property was actually connected to a crime, the required standard of proof is low. In a criminal case, for a conviction, the evidence must be “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In a civil case, such as civil asset forfeiture, however, the standard of proof is much lower, a simple “preponderance of the evidence” is all that is required.
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In 2015, New Mexico passed a law banning civil asset forfeiture, a legal procedure where law enforcement may seize property or cash from individuals even if they have not been convicted of a crime. Now, three years later, reform efforts seem to have stalled. Law enforcement agencies across the state are failing to report property and cash which has been legally forfeited. It is also unclear what has happened to most of the forfeited cash.

According to New Mexico’s civil forfeiture reforms, law enforcement agencies are required to report all forfeitures to the Department of Public Safety. Once submitted, they are to be published on the department’s website by April 1 every year. Even though reporting by law enforcement agencies was widespread in 2015, few reports have been submitted to the department since then.
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