But there’s still legislation under consideration to mandate conviction first.
USDAEarlier this year, Wyoming’s legislature overwhelmingly passed asset forfeiture reform that would have required an actual conviction before law enforcement officials within the state could take and keep its citizens’ belongings.
Unfortunately, the legislation was vetoed by Republican Gov. Matt Mead, who insisted that law enforcement officers in his state were not abusing the law. Though the new law was passed with a veto-proof majority, some legislators subsequently switched their votes and let the law die. Legislators promised to revisit potential reforms to its current, very loose, civil forfeiture regulations.
So now it’s back and legislators are hammering out a new bill, currently still in the drafting state. Unfortunately, it looks like the mandate that the government actually convict defendants of crimes before seizing their stuff may go by the wayside. There are a couple of proposals under consideration. One would not require a conviction, but would increase the current looser, more easily abused “preponderance of evidence” standard to seize. Instead a “clear and convincing evidence” threshold, higher, but not as high as conviction, would be considered. This bill would also grant a property owner a right to a jury trial to fight a forfeiture. It also calls for some form of analysis of “proportionality” of the forfeiture that allows the courts to reduce the amount of assets taken to fit the severity of the crime. (This part of the bill feels…