Civil forfeiture reform bill passes Senate

January 31, 2018

A bill that would overhaul Indiana’s civil forfeiture framework has passed the Indiana Senate.

During Tuesday’s Senate session, Sen. Rod Bray, R-Martinsville, told lawmakers Senate Bill 99 came out of both the Interim Study Committee on Courts and the Judiciary and the August ruling in Leroy Washington v. Marion County Prosecutor, et al., 1:16-cv-02980. Southern District Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson struck down parts of Indiana’s civil forfeiture framework as unconstitutional, pointing to the lack of a “post-seizure, pre-forfeiture hearing.”

SB 99 addresses that issue by requiring a prosecutor to file a probable cause affidavit within seven days of a seizure. If probable cause is not found at that time, the property must be returned to its owner. Further, if a forfeiture action is unsuccessful, property must be returned to its owner without a requirement for owners to pay the costs of storing the property.

The bill also includes safeguards for so-called “innocent owners” who lend their property to friends or family without knowing it would be used in a crime. It would also expedite the process by requiring prosecutors to file a forfeiture action within 21 days if an owner makes a demand for their property, or within 90 days if no demand is made.

SB 99 would also require prosecutors to report details of forfeiture actions to the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, a step Bray said is necessary to learn more about how Indiana’s forfeiture process works in practice. Finally, the bill outlines where money will go if property is sold after a civil forfeiture.

Bray’s bill passed the Senate 49-0 and moves to the House of Representatives.

Look for more on civil forfeiture reform in the Feb. 7 issue of Indiana Lawyer.



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