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SPLC Statement on AL Legislature Passage of Civil Asset Forfeiture Reforms in SB 191

If Governor Ivey signs the bill, reporting of civil asset forfeitures in state would be mandatory

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - The following statement about the passage of SB 191 in the Alabama Legislature today is by Emily Early, staff attorney for SPLC Action Fund:

"A mandatory reporting system for civil asset forfeiture can help ensure the civil asset forfeiture law is not abused or used primarily to create revenue for the government. SB 191 recognizes the importance of the mandatory collection of information about civil forfeitures in reaching this goal, but does not go far enough in ending the abusive practice altogether.

"While we applaud the efforts of our state legislators in taking this step towards protecting the property and due process rights of Alabamians across the state and urge Governor Ivey to sign SB 191 without delay, it’s not enough for the actors who profit from civil asset forfeiture to simply report what they take from Alabamians. That’s because the practice of civil asset forfeiture is, at its core, wrong.
"In future legislative sessions, we hope and expect that lawmakers will learn from the data provided through this new law and give Alabamians the necessary relief they deserve constitutionally by ensuring that a criminal conviction is required before any property is forfeited to the state. The Supreme Court, in the unanimous Timbs v. Indiana decision this year, made clear that states can’t impose excessive fines on residents and put states on notice that practices like civil asset forfeiture that exist mainly to generate revenues for the government may be unconstitutional. A case in Alabama has already been filed that alleges just that.
"Should Alabama end the practice in future years, the state will join 16 others across the country in requiring criminal convictions to forfeit most or all types of property. Across the nation, legislators, mobilized citizens, and impacted people are demanding that the government be focused on keeping communities safe, not policing for profit.
"Protecting people’s property rights from government overreach is one of the foundational principles of American democracy. It’s time we legislate that into reality in Alabama.