Home > Issues & Alerts > Legislative Alerts > WARNING: Don't Be Deceived by Amendments to 2nd Sub. SB 175 (Forfeiture)!  (Alert for 3/1/04)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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WARNING:  Don't Be Deceived by Amendments

to 2nd Sub. SB 175 (Forfeiture)!

(Alert 3/1/04)


Alert provided by Mr. Arnold Gaunt.
To receive forfeiture alerts directly, e-mail ajgaunt@xmission.com.

Topics:

1.  To Protect Your Rights, You Must Act Immediately!

2.  Reasons to Oppose SS SB 175

Accountability Utah Note: Download Fliers & Get More Information!

 

1.  To Protect Your Rights, You Must Act Immediately!

Contact your Representative and Speaker Marty Stephens immediately, and urge him or her to vote NO on 2nd Sub. S.B. 175 (SS SB 175).  The vote may occur as soon as 8 AM on Monday morning (March 1).  To be effective, your contact must be made in one or more of the following ways.

1.  Personal visit at Capitol or at the Representative's home.

2.  Phone call to the Representative at his or her home today (Sunday) or at the Capitol on Monday.

3.  Fax to the Representative at the Capitol.

E-mail, though better than no contact at all, may not be read, or may not be read until after the vote has occurred.  To maximize your impact, make contact in person, by phone, or by fax!

To contact your House member and Speaker Marty Stephens at the Capitol switchboard:

800-662-3367
801-538-1029
801-538-1908 (fax)
801-538-9505 (Democrat fax)

Obtain home phone numbers and addresses.\

[Accountability Utah note: Find your representative or obtain additional contact information.]

See the bill status. Be sure to look for a possible third substitute.

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2.  Reasons to Oppose SS SB 175

The following reasons warrant the NO vote of your Representative on SS SB 175:

1.  The process for consideration of SB 175 has been completely unacceptable.

  • The bill was crafted in secrecy, behind closed doors, denying public input and scrutiny.

  • A law enacted by the people with 69% of the vote demands the highest possible standards for disclosure and public debate.

  • The bill was not released to the public until the last possible moment.

  • The legislative committees in the Senate and House denied meaningful public input to consideration of the bill.  The pro-confiscation position was given hours of time, while opposing views were given only minutes, insufficient to completely and publicly expose and substantiate the massive corruption in S.B. 175.

  • Supposedly favorable amendments, reported in the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune on Saturday, have not been posted on the legislative web page for public review and analysis.  Why?

  • With three days left in the legislative session, there is insufficient time for full review and consideration of amendments being made at this time.

2.  Policing for profit is wrong and has no acceptable place in the law.

If we don't allow our soldiers to keep property they seize during war, IRS agents to keep taxes they collect, and judges to receive a percentage of fines they assess, we should most certainly not allow police to have a financial incentive to unjustly take private property.  It is the job of the legislature, not the police, to determine police agency budgets.  Whether police fund themselves directly, or create an appearance of oversight through an intermediate step of funneling the money through the CCJJ (as is proposed with SS SB 175, see lines 584-594), the right of property owners to receive fair and impartial justice is denied.

3.  The police and Attorney General should not be rewarded  for subverting and defying the intent of the law enacted through Initiative B.

Initiative B placed significant restrictions on the transfer of seized property to the federal government, and prohibited police agencies from receiving proceeds from federally-forfeited property.  Specifically, the law states that its intent is to "protect innocent owners from the wrongful taking of their property", such as might occur at the federal level where property owners are presumed to be guilty.  (See Utah Code 24-1-2(3).)  With SS SB 175, Utah's police will be allowed to receive millions of dollars of forfeiture proceeds from private property they directly or cooperatively caused to be seized and confiscated by the federal government.  Because current state law requires that forfeiture proceeds be deposited in the Uniform School Fund and not into police agency budgets, the police and prosecutors chose to have property forfeited under unjust federal confiscation statutes, rather than utilizing state-level forfeiture procedure as they could and should have done.

4.  Policing for profit creates incentive for criminals to be released or prosecuted lightly, or for the innocent to be wrongly accused.

When police are able to profit from seized property, they are given financial incentive to reduce or eliminate criminal charges in exchange for the criminal not contesting the forfeiture of seized property.  Even worse, because under the law a civil forfeiture action is discontinued upon the owner's acquittal on criminal charges, police are financially motivated to never file charges against criminals in the first place.  Another dangerous ramification of profit-oriented policing is the incentive created for innocent persons to be charged with a crime and their property taken.  The innocent person is then told as long as he doesn't oppose the confiscation of his property, the charges (which were of no substance to begin with) will be dropped.

5.  Initiative B has not affected the confiscation lobby's ability to fight drugs and drug criminals.

According to Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, the number of methamphetamine labs in Utah have been cut in half since he took office (and Intiative B was passed). See news article.

According to an editorial in December by Salt Lake County District Attorney David Yocom, there was a 22% increase in felony cases in Salt Lake City in 2003, including a "significant number of drug prosecutions".  See news article.

If there has been a failure to aggressively pursue criminals or pursue legitimate forfeitures under state law since the passage of Initiative B, the blame must be placed squarely on Attorney General Shurtleff and other law enforcement officials for failure to faithfully and competently perform their jobs.

6.  It is unreasonable to expect compliance with the proposed oversight and disclosures in SS SB 175, given that current disclosures are not being timely provided by prosecutors and police.

Per correspondence I have had with the State Auditor's office, it is unable to timely complete the annual forfeiture audit that is required under the law enacted by Initiative B.  The difficulties are due to:

  • Failure of counties, specifically Salt Lake and Utah, to timely respond to requests from the Auditor's office.

  • The time taken to investigate several significant problems and recommend changes in response to them.

  • The elimination of auditor positions, possibly as retaliation for the Auditor exposing massive forfeiture abuses last year (read the Auditor's letter).

If our Legislature was properly doing its job, it would use its investigative power to determine why the counties are not providing the Auditor's office the information it requires, and the nature of the significant problems the Auditor has discovered.  Instead, they are facilitating a cover-up by aggressively pushing SS SB 175, rendering the release of the audit report in April (after the Legislative session) meaningless to changes in the law.

7.  In total, the changes made to Utah's forfeiture procedure by SS SB 175 harm innocent owners.

Even if Utah's police and prosecutors were to be prohibited from directly or cooperatively causing property to be seized and confiscated by the federal government, the changes being made to the state-level forfeiture procedure do not -- on the whole -- benefit innocent owners.  For example:

  • Forfeited property is not prohibited from being transferred, sold, or auctioned to family members, relatives, and friends of police agency members (see lines 347-348).

  • Hardship release of property is prohibited if the property was misused prior to seizure, even though the owner was not involved in or aware of the misuse (see lines 370-371).

  • Greater opportunity to destroy small businesses is provided by increasing the delay for a hardship release from 10 to 20 days (see lines 381-383).

  • Property of limited value seized from the poor may be sold prior to proof in a court of law that the property is subject to forfeiture (see lines 403-405).

  • A forfeiture is allowed to be disproportional to the misuse of the property (see lines 438-441).  That is, the punishment is allowed to exceed the crime.

  • Forfeiture proceeds may be funneled back to the seizing agency, after being laundered by the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ) (see lines 584-594).

  • Forfeiture proceeds can be used to obtain federal grants (see line 624) that can pay for law enforcement salaries, deceptively contradicting a prohibition against such use (see line 627).

  • Forfeiture proceeds are not prohibited from being used for political purposes, such as the hiring of lobbyists who will seek further destruction of your rights with subsequent legislation (see lines 625-633).

8.  Supposedly favorable amendments do not make SS SB 175 acceptable.

According to news stories appearing yesterday in the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune (see links below), amendments have been or are being prepared to address the state's participation in unjust federal forfeitures.  These amendments do not provide an acceptable basis for support of SS SB 175.

  • As noted in 1-7, there are many reasons to oppose the bill beyond its current provisions encouraging even more federal forfeitures.

  • Until the amendments are disclosed to the public, it is unknown as to whether they accomplish their stated objectives.

  • Until the state law is amended to require the federal government to cede its authority to perform forfeitures to the state as a condition of participation in a joint investigation, the incentive and method to perform forfeitures at the federal level will remain even with the alleged improvements.  An amendment restricting joint investigations was not mentioned in the news stories (see Tribune article and DesNews article).

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Accountability Utah Note: Download Fliers & Get More Information!

You can view, download, and copy updated fliers against SB 175.  Visit our Volunteer Action Page and make your neighbors aware of the threat to their rights and community.

Also see yesterday's Deseret News article article on the devious plans of the confiscation cartel. Again, secret drafts in shady backrooms are the tools for supplanting your citizens' initiative.

Consider Title 18, Section 983, U.S. Code to which more innocent Utah citizens would be subjected to under SB 175 S2:

(d) Innocent Owner Defense.
(1) An innocent owner's interest in property shall not be forfeited under any civil forfeiture statute. The claimant shall have the burden of proving that the claimant is an innocent owner by a preponderance of the evidence.

Nothing lacking in due process?  To be assumed guilty in America and to be forced to attempt to prove one's innocence? Citizens were not idiots when they passed Initiative B by 69 percent of Utah voters in 2000.

For additional information, see the Property Rights section of our Issues & Alerts page. See another useful handout as well, "Forfeiture abuses do occur in Utah.

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