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Forfeiture bill would restrict police, prosecutors

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A bill scheduled for a hearing before the Indiana Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee Tuesday would require law enforcement to get a conviction before moving ahead with civil forfeiture.

Senate Bill 8, authored by Republican Sens. R. Michael Young of Indianapolis and Philip Boots of Crawfordsville, also would repeal a provision in Indiana Code that permits the state to turn over seized property to the federal government.

The hearing will be at 10 a.m. Jan. 10 in Room 130 of the Statehouse. Young is the committee chair and Democratic Sen. Greg Taylor is the ranking minority member.

The bill would limit forfeiture of property to the state to only those incidents where the owner is convicted of a crime. Indiana’s current forfeiture law, Indiana Code 34-32-1, does not specify the property’s owner must be convicted before the items can be forfeited.

An analysis by the Legislative Services Agency found the revenue from assets that are seized and forfeited could be reduced under the bill, but the agency could not determine the level of reduction. Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council reported that $1.8 million was seized and forfeited during fiscal year 2016. The proceeds were distributed between prosecuting attorneys, law enforcement and Indiana’s Common School Fund.

Indiana’s civil forfeitures were the subject of two high-profile court cases last year. 

In February 2016, Marion County’s forfeiture procedure was challenged by the Virginia-based Institute for Justice. The organization filed a lawsuit, claiming the Marion County police department and prosecutor’s office were keeping all of the forfeiture monies in a “policing for profit” scheme.

Marion Superior Judge Thomas Carroll denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss in July 2016 and in December granted the plaintiffs’ motion to compel discovery.

Also in September 2016, the Indiana Supreme Court affirmed that the state’s expungement statutes do not extend to civil forfeiture records. The case was D.A. v. State of Indiana, 48S02-1604-MI-183.

The Young-Boots bill would place additional limits on law enforcement’s ability to seize assets.

Currently, officers are allowed to seize the property of anyone who is arrested, searched or stopped as part of an administrative inspection. The bill would require that officers seizing property during an arrest or search must have probable cause to believe that the property is subject to seizure.

In addition, the bill requires the court to find substantial probability that the property is subject to seizure and that the state or municipality would prevail in a forfeiture hearing. Moreover, the court must find substantial probability that the property will be destroyed or made unavailable if it is not seized. Finally the court must also find that the need to seize the property outweighs the hardship to the owner and other parties.

The proposed legislation changes the procedures and criteria for pursuing a civil forfeiture of seized property.

Current law requires that prosecutors show the preponderance of evidence demonstrates that the property was used in the crime while the bill pushes prosecuting attorneys to show by clear and convincing evidence the defendant owns the property and was convicted of the crime.

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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