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Guest Column from State Representative Anne Gonzales- Reining in Civil Asset Forfeiture

July 6, 2016
Republican Newsroom

Press Release Poster

These past few months have been incredibly busy at the people’s house in Columbus. We have been hard at work researching, crafting, and ultimately passing legislation that will help improve our great state of Ohio. One piece of legislation I believe will help Ohio is Substitute House Bill 347, legislation that limits the use of civil asset forfeiture.

Recently, my colleagues and I at the Ohio House of Representatives passed House Bill 347 and sent it to the Ohio Senate for further consideration. The bill ensures that the use of civil asset forfeiture, a judicial process by which the government can take a person’s property based on the allegation of its involvement in a crime without ever charging the individual with a crime, is utilized justly.

We at the Ohio House made sure that HB 347 limited forfeiture of property to certain situations. The situations in which it can be forfeited include if seized property is unclaimed, the property owner is deceased, or if the property owner has been indicted for a felony and is unable to be brought to justice.

Additionally, the bill limits the use of a federal program in which forfeited assets are shared between state and federal law enforcement authorities. It also can only be utilized for property valued at more than $100,000, greatly reducing a practice that is often used by law enforcement.

This bill aides Ohioans by limiting law enforcement agencies of the state or its political subdivision’s involvement in the US Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program, a program with little due process. Furthermore, a provision contained in the bill allows the state to file an action against a person alleged to have proceeds exceeding $25,000 derived from drug or human trafficking or a theft offense.

We must always assume that someone is innocent until proven guilty, which is why HB 347 is a great bill. I always serve to protect the rights and well-being of my constituents and all Ohioans as a whole and this legislation does that. Allegations do not necessarily mean guilt, which is why I hope that the Ohio Senate will agree so we can get this signed by the governor before the end of the year.