Alabama has, admittedly, a very troubled system when it comes to civil asset forfeitures. In fact, the Institute for Justice gave the state a “D minus” because of how easy it is for law enforcement officers to simply take away someone’s property — even when there’s no criminal conviction.
The criticism that’s come from within the state and various national organizations devoted to justice has finally produced some results. While lawmakers and legal organizations have been calling for reform — if not an absolute repeal of civil asset forfeiture — police departments and law enforcement groups have naturally pushed back. However, a recent announcement by the governor’s office indicates that progress is finally being made.
Governor Kay Ivey announced that a $38,336 grant from the United States Department of Justice will be used to help establish a more transparent system regarding the state’s asset forfeitures. The Alabama Justice Information Commission intends to build a database to collect information on how, when and why such forfeitures occur. The database will also track all seizures and the manner in which any seized property is disposed.
A database was nearly approved by lawmakers in 2018 — but the fierce opposition to the program defeated the pending legislation at the last minute.
Many people — inside and out of the state — believe that no individual should be deprived of their property absent a conviction. Civil forfeiture laws were designed to make it harder for drug traffickers to ply their trade or reap the profits — but they’re easily abused to injure innocent people or people who are guilty of, at worst, minor crimes.
If you’ve fallen victim to a cash grab by the police or a civil asset forfeiture that’s unfair, take a stand. Find out more about your legal rights and the options you have to fight back.