Police would be restricted on what they could seize and where the proceeds from seizures would go under a bill nearing passage in the Unicameral.
Sen. Tommy Garrett of Bellevue tells colleagues too much money has been taken under suspect conditions and too little has gone to public schools as specified by the state constitution.
“We’ve been kind of doing an end-run with our civil forfeitures,” Garrett tells colleagues during legislative floor debate on LB 1106. “This bill, again, does away with civil forfeiture and requires that there be a criminal charge and a criminal conviction before forfeiture can actually occur.”
Cash and other property could not be seized by police unless the suspect is convicted of a crime. If the take totals under $25,000 it must go through the state system, which funnels about half the forfeitures to the public schools. The federal system shares most of the proceeds with local law enforcement.
Garrett estimates Nebraska schools have been missing out on a little more than two million dollars a year under the current system.
Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln backs the change.
“If the government’s going to take your property there has to be a process by which you can get it back and, most importantly, there’s got to be a criminal conviction prior to that,” Coash says.
Garrett says the current system of seizures circumvents state law and can deprive innocent people of their property merely if suspected of a crime.
Also under the bill, law enforcement would have to report forfeitures annually to the state Auditor.
LB 1106 must make it through one more round of voting to move to Gov. Pete Ricketts’ desk.