Wyoming Liberty Group
WyLiberty Supports Passage of Bill to End Civil Forfeiture in Wyoming
CHEYENNE – The Wyoming House of Representatives passed Senate File 14 today with a vote of 54-6, which follows the Senate’s passing vote of 26-3 (1 excused) on January 23. The bill would amend the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act to end the practice of civil forfeiture by requiring an individual to be convicted of a drug felony before the state can permanently confiscate property.
“Right now, Wyoming police may seize property such as cash, cars and firearms without even charging the property owner of a crime,” said Steve Klein, Wyoming Liberty Group staff attorney. “Owners must then prove the property is legitimate in civil court, where they are not provided an attorney and the evidentiary burden on the government is the lowest possible. Basically, if you’re there, it’s your word against the state’s. SF14 would change that entirely.”
Klein testified in favor of the bill at both Senate and House Judiciary Committees, opposed by Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael, Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation Director Steve Woodson, and numerous lobbyists for law enforcement.
“Law enforcement deserves a lot of credit for not abusing asset forfeiture, which has happened in other states,” said Klein. “Nevertheless, the law itself is abusive and does not provide due process. If the government wants to forfeit property because it is profits from the drug trade, they should first convict the owner of being part of the drug trade. It’s that simple.”
The bill garnered strong support in the Legislature, passing each house with more than 2/3 support.
“Lobbying only goes so far; it’s the legislators who vote,” said Klein. “Numerous legislators took the lead in supporting SF14, including Senators Leland Christensen, Dave Kinskey, Larry Hicks, Drew Perkins, and Representatives Kendell Kroeker, Cathy Connolly, and David Miller. Credit is also due to former Representative Keith Gingery, who introduced the bill that became SF14 last year.”
With slight amendments by the House, the bill heads back to the Senate for confirmation, and then to Governor Matt Mead for review. If the bill is signed or allowed to become law, it will go into effect on July 1.
“With the Governor’s signature, this bill will make Wyoming a leader in forfeiture reform,” said Klein. “Instead of saying ‘it doesn’t happen here,’ we can say ‘it can’t happen here.’ It’s a great day for due process and property rights.”