Ohio may soon become one of the leading states on civil asset forfeiture reform. On Tuesday, state Rep. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) introduced HB 347, which would protect innocent property owners by requiring a criminal conviction before seized items can be forfeited to the government. FreedomWorks supports this legislation and plans to mobilize our community to take action to help move it through the Ohio Legislature.
Though there will be some opposition to HB 347 from prosecutors and other law enforcement, Ohioans overwhelmingly back changes to the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws that would protect innocent property owners, according to a survey conducted on behalf of the U.S. Justice Action Network, of which FreedomWorks is a partner organization. Fully, 90 percent of registered voters in the Buckeye State say reforms are needed to fix the problems with its forfeiture laws.
Ohio’s forfeiture laws are better than most states but are in need of improvements. Prosecutors can subject property to forfeiture by showing “clear and convincing” evidence, which is below the “beyond a reasonable doubt” requirement, and property owner, who may never be charged with a crime, bears the burden of proof to get their property back. Additionally, state and local law enforcement received $80 million from 2000 to 2008 from the Department of Justice’s Equitable Sharing Program, according to the Institute for Justice.
The Equitable Sharing Program is often used to circumvent protective state forfeiture laws because federal forfeiture laws have a much lower standard of evidence and the seizing state…