The death of a Virginia state senate bill means residents and visitors to the state are more vulnerable to police taking their property without due process of law.
Currently, Virginia endorses the common practice in which police can seize property if they believe it is connected to a crime, even if you are not convicted of a crime. Citizens who have their property taken then have to go through the difficult process of winning their property back from the state, whether its cash, a vehicle, or anything else.
From 2008 to 2013, Virginia law enforcement seized more than $57 million in civil asset forfeitures, The Virginian Pilot reports.
On top of a conviction, the bill would have required that a person exhaust all appeals options before their property is taken.
The bill was sent to the State Crime Commission for more study on the issue which is a nice way of killing it.
“Basic fairness is not a concept requiring research or careful analysis,” ACLU Virginia said in a statement. “It certainly doesn’t require a year-long study by the Crime Commission. One either believes that the state should have to prove you guilty of a crime before it takes the property it says was used in the crime or you don’t. It’s a simple matter of equity, not a complex policy decision.”
The practice is usually touted as a way to cut down on drug crime profits, but critics have pointed to cases where innocent people were deprived of their property for months or never got it back at all.