The Alabama District Attorneys Association says that public reports will be compiled to provide data on civil asset forfeitures in this state. The goal is transparency through the Alabama Forfeiture Accountability System, which will include information about cases that involved law enforcement officers seizing assets due to the suspicion of criminal activity.
The data should shed light on what some believe is contributing to policing for profit, an issue that they claim is causing law enforcement agencies to seize assets and cash even when a person isn’t ultimately charged with a crime. As it currently stands, people who have assets taken have to go through often-complicated and lengthy steps to get those back – and some never get them back.
Last year, the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, along with the Southern Poverty Law Center, found that asset forfeiture in this state is abused. It is noted that the data found won’t stop this from happening, but it can show where things need to be fixed. One huge issue in Alabama is that around 25 percent of cases involving civil asset forfeiture never result in criminal charges being filed. Racial considerations also need to be reviewed. The report found that African Americans accounted for 64 percent of the civil asset forfeitures in this state, but African Americans only account for 27 percent of the population here.
The database will be voluntary and may help legislators in the state to come up with plans to prevent the illegal seizure of assets. This could also help the state to ensure that matters here don’t end up at the heart of a case before the U.S. Supreme Court like the one recently discussed on this blog from Indiana.