Alabama Prosecutor, Sheriff Threaten to Put More People in Prison in Order to Keep Seizing Massive Amounts of Property
Burn it down. "Lawmakers are considering eliminating the authority of Alabama police and prosecutors to seize and keep citizens' property and money without actually convicting them of any crimes. Unsurprisingly, prosecutors and sheriffs in Alabama would like to keep the gravy train going. But they're surprisingly blunt in admitting that they're in it for the money. In Alabama, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors rake in millions each year through state and federal asset forfeiture programs, seizing people's property and keeping it for themselves, often without ever convicting anybody of an underlying crime. A recent study showed that in a quarter of all civil forfeiture cases in Alabama, no underlying charges are ever filed, and in more than 40 percent of all civil forfeiture cases, the underlying crimes revolved around marijuana. Due to lax state reporting requirements, it's not even clear how extensively local police are turning to civil asset forfeiture. In January two Republican lawmakers introduced legislation that would require that prosecutors actually convict people of crimes in order to keep their stuff. It would put the burden on the state to prove that the property they want to seize is connected to a crime, rather than for the defendant to prove their innocence. It would move the proceeds of forfeiture to the state's general fund to eliminate the profit incentive for police and prosecutors to try to seize whatever they could get their hands on. And it would close a loophole that would forbid local law enforcement agencies from bypassing restrictions by participating in the federal "equitable sharing" Department of Justice forfeiture program."