Arizona Governor signs bill changing current civil forfeiture laws.
On May 5, Governor Doug Ducey signed House Bill 2810, which rewrote large portions of Arizona’s civil forfeiture laws. This new bill will make it more difficult for the government to keep seized property without a criminal conviction.
Ducey signed the bill five days after it reached his desk. The bill had wide bipartisan support having passed through Arizona Legislation almost unanimously.
In Ducey’s letter to Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, he wrote he signed the bill to protect individuals while maintaining laws that protect the state.
“H.B. 2810 provides this balance. And it ensures that law enforcement has the ability to seize property pending forfeiture or if the property is evidence of a crime,” Ducey said. “It ensures that property being taken is truly connected to criminal activity while innocent persons have the ability to get their property back.”
While the bill was well-received among members of the legislation, Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel wrote to Ducey previous to his signing asking him to veto the bill.
Adel feared the new bill would make Arizona susceptible to drug cartels and human trafficking. She felt the bill misunderstood the purpose of civil asset forfeiture which is meant to really help officers “efficiently interrupt the money supply of criminal enterprises and quickly recover property for victims of crime.”
However, Adel told the Arizona Republic she acknowledged the passage of the bill but would consider working with the Legislature to draft work to fix up the law.
The bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, hoped the bill would help prevent law enforcement from seizing assets with the only suspicion of criminal activity.
The bill will also bar officers from pressuring people into signing waiver forms. These documents, once signed, state the property in question doesn’t belong to the signee. Officers would use these forms as a threat; if someone refused to sign, they would be locked up.
A variety of advocates from different political alignments were pleased with the passage of HB 2810. The Goldwater Institute, a conservative and libertarian public policy think tank, and the Justice Action Network, a bipartisan advocacy group, both wrote public messages following the passage of the bill.
This bill followed the story of Jerry Johnson. Johnson flew to Phoenix from North Carolina to purchase a truck for his shipping company. He had been carrying a large amount of cash to buy the truck at an auction, and said, “a Phoenix police officer threatened to arrest him after arriving at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport if he didn’t sign a waiver form.”
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