Wyoming Liberty Group
Civil Forfeiture Reform Advances from Wyoming Joint Judiciary Committee
LARAMIE – The Joint Judiciary Committee of the Wyoming Legislature voted to sponsor a bill that would substantially amend the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act today, by a vote of 12-1 (1 excused). The bill would eliminate the practice of “civil forfeiture” in Wyoming, which allows police to seize, and the attorney general to permanently deprive owners of, property that is allegedly related to the drug trade.
Wyoming Liberty Group staff attorney Steve Klein began lobbying for forfeiture reform in the 2014 Budget Session and testified throughout the legislative interim.
“Wyoming police may currently seize cash, cars, firearms and other property without charging the property owner of a crime or even finding drugs,” said Klein. “If the bill passes in its current form, it will eliminate this practice and strongly protect property rights and due process.”
The committee bill, in its current form, would require a property owner to be convicted of a felony drug offense before related property may be forfeited. Criminal proceedings entitle defendants to a jury trial and legal representation, which are not currently required in civil forfeiture cases.
“Above all, if the bill passes it will ensure a person is convicted of a crime before losing his or her property,” said Klein. “This will make Wyoming a leader in protecting private rights, and ensure that Wyomingites are never subjected to the abuses seen in other states.
The bill will be introduced in the 2015 Legislative Session, which begins in January 2015.