Civil Asset Forfeiture reform bill back for new vote
Sen. Holly Mitchell’s SB443 reform bill defeated initially in state assembly, back for a new vote By NYABINGI KUTI, Contributing Writer Compton Herald columnist Betty Pleasant wrote a great article in September last year regarding Sen. Holly Mitchell’s
Sen. Holly Mitchell’s SB443 reform bill defeated initially in state assembly, back for a new vote
By NYABINGI KUTI, Contributing Writer
Compton Herald columnist Betty Pleasant wrote a great article in September last year regarding Sen. Holly Mitchell’s Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform bill, SB 443. If passed into law, this bill will provide due process before law enforcement can seize a person’s personal property.
Currently, under federal law, the police can seize a person’s property and assets without arresting them. Pleasant’s article was about the crushing defeat of the bill, partly due to three Southern California African-American assemblymembers that abstained on the vote.
Civil Asset Forfeiture differs from Criminal Asset Forfeiture because no charges have to be filed against a person’s civil asset forfeiture. This law came into being as a result of the mass incarceration era which started in the 1990s due to the War On Drugs. Author Michelle Alexander lays it out quite well in her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. California prisons became so overcrowded due to the War On Drugs that the U.S. federal court had to intervene to force the state to curtail prison population.
AB 109, state to county prison realignment; Propositions 36 (three strikes reform) and 47 (which reduced most drug charges to misdemeanors) have helped to amend some of these laws that were written during the War On Drugs. Civil Asset Forfeiture is another byproduct of the War On Drugs that has caused so much damage to Black and Brown community.
The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) issued a report in 2015 titled Above the Law: An Investigation of Civil Asset Forfeiture in California. The report revealed that of 300 cities investigated in California for civil asset forfeitures, 8 cities in Los Angeles County were in the Top 10. In the southern portion of the county, Gardena was numbered among these.
I recently organized a delegation that visited Sacramento to lobby the lawmakers who abstained from voting or voted “No” on the bill. The main reason given for the dissent was that law enforcement would lose much needed federal funding if this bill passed.
We explained to the lawmakers that CAF funds are not grants, but, rather, the property of their constituents and should not be looked upon as a permanent revenue source.
Kent Shaw, deputy director Division of Law Enforcement for the state, contends that anticipating forfeiture revenue is counter to state forfeiture law and constitutes a dangerous budgetary process.
“I would hope that no jurisdiction really does that, only because asset forfeiture is such a variable commodity ,” Shaw said,
Our delegation visited Assemblymembers Mike Gipson, D-Carson; Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, D-Culver City; and Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach). None committed to changing their vote, but Assemblyman Gipson did say that he would meet with Sen. Holly Mitchell to discuss his concerns about the bill.
We asked people to call the three assembly members to encourage them to vote “Yes” on SB 443. The bill is expected to be reintroduced within the next two weeks, so please call (213) 745-6656 or (916) 651-4030 to support Sen. Mitchell’s progressive legislation.
Nyabingi Kuti is Director of the Los Angeles Reintegration Council, which advocates for increased resources to the formerly incarcerated. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org