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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Protect your rights. Fight HB 09-1238.

From my friends at the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition:
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Action Alert – Oppose HB 1238 (civil forfeiture)

Scheduled for hearing before House Judiciary Committee – Thurs 3/5pm at 1:30pm

Please forward this action alert to any of your friends and family that value due process and property rights. The Colorado Springs Gazette published an editorial in opposition to HB 1238. To read it, click here:
http://www.gazette.com/opinion/bill_49055___article.html/colorado_house.html

HB 1238 is opposed by a diverse, bi-partisan coalition including:

Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, Independence Institute, ACLU,
Colorado Union of Taxpayers, Colorado Criminal Defense Bar Association, Colorado
Progressive Coalition, Pikes Peak Justice & Peace Commission, The Center for
Justice, Peace & Environment, SAFER Colorado, Pendulum Foundation, Rocky
Mountain Peace & Justice Center, Metro Community Church of the Rockies, Drug
Policy Alliance, Colorado Libertarian Party, Empowerment Program, Alexandria
Temple, National Lawyer’s Guild-Colorado, Law Offices of Phil Cherner, Sensible
Colorado, Colorado CURE, Cynergetics Institute, Kilmer, Lane and Newman, Youth Transformation, Charities House Ministries, Montview Presbyterian-Peace & Justice Taskforce, New Foundations Nonviolence Center, Left Hand Book Collective, Turnabout, Surrounded by Recovery


What is “civil forfeiture?”

Civil forfeiture is used by law enforcement to seize personal property (real estate, cash, jewelry, etc.) they believe was used during the commission of a criminal offense or is proceeds from criminal activity. When property is seized, prosecutors then file a civil forfeiture action against the property and, if the prosecution prevails, the property owner loses all right, title and interest in the property.

Current forfeiture law requires that:

In most cases, a person must be convicted of a criminal offense before their property (cash, real estate, cars, etc.) can be forfeited for being involved in or proceeds of criminal activity.
Law enforcement is required to submit an annual forfeiture report to Dept of Local Affairs.
These changes came about pursuant to the passage of HB 02-1404 in the 2002 legislative session. HB 02-1404 was sponsored by (then) Representative Shawn Mitchell (R-Broomfield) and (then) Senator Bill Thiebaut (D-Pueblo). HB 1404 was a bi-partisan effort that passed in the House on a 51-11 vote and passed the Senate on a 23-10 vote. HB 1404 also received editorial board support from the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, Grand Junction Sentinel, Colorado Springs Gazette, and Durango Herald.

WHAT HB 09-1238 WOULD DO:

Erodes reasonable protections for property owners by repealing the requirement that someone be convicted of a criminal offense before their property can be forfeited. (In a civil forfeiture action, a property owner does not have 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination nor the right to counsel).

Alowing for forfeiture even if the owner didn’t know that the property was used in violation of the law under the theory that he/she “reasonably should have known.”

Repealing the requirement that the plaintiff prove that the property being forfeited was instrumental in the commission of an offense.

Removes any transparency and accountability by repealing all forfeiture reporting requirements and repeals the prohibition on transfer of forfeiture cases out of state court when local or state law enforcement were the seizing agency, with limited exceptions.

CONCLUSION:

Current law ensures that forfeiture actions are fair and that property owners have due process without undermining law enforcement’s ability to use forfeiture as a legitimate tool. Current law also brings the revenue generated from asset forfeiture into an appropriate budget process and provides accountability while removing any appearance of impropriety. HB 09-1238 repeals these fundamental principals of fairness and due process. It also creates an unacceptable profit motive for law enforcement.

Please contact the following House Judiciary Committee members and urge them to vote NO on HB 1238. Please contact them before the hearing on Thursday 3/5.

House Judiciary Committee Members:
Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder), chairman – 303-866-2578, claire.levy.house@state.co.us
Rep. Beth McCann (D-Denver), vice-chairman – 303-966-2959, ehmccann@comcast.net
Rep. Dennis Apuan (D-El Paso), 303-866-3069, repdennisapuan@gmail.com
Rep. Lois Court (D-Denver), 303-866-2967, loiscourt@msn.com
Rep. Bob Gardner (R-El Paso), 303-866-2191, bob.gardner.house@state.co.us
Rep. Steve King (R-Delta), 303-866-3068, steve.king.house@state.co.us
Rep. Joe Miklosi (D-Denver), 303-866-2910, joe@joemiklosi.com
Rep. Sal Pace (D-Pueblo), 303-966-2968, sal_pace@hotmail.com
Rep. Ellen Roberts (R-Archuleta), 303-866-2914, ellen.roberts.house@state.co.us
Rep. Su Ryden (D-Arapahoe), 303-866-2942, su@suryden.com
Rep. Mark Waller (R-El Paso), 303-866-5525, mark.waller.house@state.co.us

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I wrote a simple request and sent it by email to each of the Representatives listed. It says

Dear Representative [insert name]:

It seems to me that the rights and liberties of law abiding, private citizens erode away further every day. From the “Patriot Act” to the erosion of our Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable search and seizure, the power of the government over our individual lives grows and grows.

HB 09-1238 would further erode the rights and liberties of citizens in favor of the government.

I know you are aware of both sides of the argument. I merely write as a citizen
urging you to come down on the side of the individual, and not on the side of an
ever expanding government.


Thank you.

David K. Williams, Jr.
xxxx S. Beeler Street
Denver, CO 80231

303-xxx-xxxx

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