Civil asset forfeiture may see reform in near future

Civil asset forfeiture may see reform in near future

Civil asset forfeiture allows the seizing of property related to a crime. It's used by law enforcement agencies to fight and deter crime, but opponents say innocent people often end up losing their belongings. 

If a person does not fight the property's seizure in court, it goes to the state. Neal Burt, with the District Attorney's office, says his staff works hard to make sure people not involved in a crime receives their items back. 

"We actually address those by a case-by-case basis to see if the person is innocent. If so we will work with them to potentially allow them to have their items back," Burt said.

Attorney Mark Snodgrass believes it has gone past the legislative intent. 

"It's turned into a government taking from citizens. Somebody accused of a crime gets a lot taken from them," Snodgrass said. 

Lubbock state senator Charles Perry advocates for a "loser pays" approach which would force the state to reimburse all fees. If the owner's proven not to have been involved in the crime. 

"If you're going to come after me and my assets and it is ultimately proven that I am innocent, the cost of getting those assets back and the cost of finding out that I'm innocent should be at the state level," Perry said. 

Perry said reform may not be far away

"It takes multiple sessions to get the ball rolling on just about anything. This one has been heard and had it's day in the session for the last two or three terms. I think you see momentum building on the Democratic and Republican ticket."

Perry expects this to be discussed at the next session, which begins on Tuesday.

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