More limits on asset forfeiture?

Mar 09, 2017

BY: CCNH-LFDA Highlights

If law enforcement officers seize a person’s property during an investigation, New Hampshire law requires a criminal conviction before that property is forfeited to the state.

However, if federal law enforcement is involved in the investigation, property can be forfeited before going to trial.  State and local law enforcement get a cut of the profits from that property if they work with federal law enforcement as part of the government’s “equitable sharing” program.

This week the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed a bill that would limit when state and local law enforcement can participate in equitable sharing.

The bill, HB 614, would only allow state and local law enforcement to transfer seized property to the federal government if the property includes currency over $100,000.  Any other seized property would have to go through the state courts. 

Bill supporters argue that HB 614 closes a loophole that allows state and local law enforcement to unjustly seize property from the public without a trial.  The profits from this seized property may motivate law enforcement to conduct even more intrusive and unjust investigations.

It's unclear how much the bill would actually divert seized property to the state courts, however.

Bill opponents note that whenever federal law enforcement is part of an investigation, they have control over seized property and prosecution.  They maintain that HB 614 will not give state and local law enforcement the power to take certain seized property out of the federal process.

On the other hand, Nebraska and New Mexico have already passed similar laws without any major problems.

Some other opponents note that the federal equitable sharing program gives more funding to local law enforcement than the state asset forfeiture program, so HB 614 would essentially cut funding for local law enforcement.

Should NH continue to allow state and federal law enforcement to share the profits from property seized during criminal investigations? Leave a comment below to join the discussion, and we'll present your thoughts to legislators considering this bill. Only comments from NH residents will be counted, so please indicate if you are from NH in your response.

Comments

Seth King
- Sugar Hill

Tue, 03/07/2017 - 3:00pm

Right now, it sounds like if the local and state police want any of the action, all they have to do is invite the feds into the investigation.

This just incentivizes the feds getting too involved in local policing.

I want the US out of NH as much as possible. This bill sounds like it will do just that, and also protect people from getting robbed by the government before they've even been convicted of anything.

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