Florida is on the verge of approving new restrictions for a procedure called civil asset forfeiture. Gov. Rick Scott has until Saturday to act on the measure.
Civil asset forfeiture allows law enforcement officers to seize and take ownership of a person’s property. The idea is to undermine criminal organizations by taking away the benefits of breaking the law. Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) sponsored the bill.
“People are just generally shocked by that fact, that how can the government take something from a Floridian—from a citizen—without charging them with a crime?” Brandes asks. “Under our bill there must be an arrest and that’s the new standard.”
Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) says lawmakers from both sides of the aisle believe the process needs reform.
“If you’re not convicted of a crime the government should not be allowed to take your things,” he said on the Senate floor, “and this is one of those great issues where good conservatives and good progressives meet in order to be able to do good law.”
New provisions would require an arrest before property may be seized, a higher burden of proof for the state in court, and greater transparency. Gov. Rick Scott has until Saturday to sign or veto the bill. If he does nothing it becomes law.