The Buckeye Institute Testifies for Asset Forfeiture Reform

Published November 20, 2015

Sometimes standing up for liberty is a lonely task.

The Buckeye Institute’s Statehouse Liaison Greg Lawson testified before the Ohio House Judiciary Committee today on why the state’s civil asset forfeiture law needs to be reformed. This is the Judiciary Committee’s third hearing on the reform proposal (H.B. 347).

Six prosecutors and a police chief testified against H.B. 347 before Greg spoke eloquently for reform.

Many police and prosecutors are concerned that restricting their power to seize assets in a civil procedure — without having to prove a person’s criminal guilt — will make their jobs harder to do.

“Repeal will only benefit criminals,” said Union County Prosecuting Attorney David W. Phillips to the committee.

He added: “The primary objection to civil forfeiture is that a criminal conviction is not necessary before property is forfeited. It is not always possible to obtain a conviction. This should not be an obstacle to forfeiture.”

In his testimony, Delaware City Police Chief Bruce Pijanowski says the current law is working fairly and effectively: “As of today, I have yet to hear of an egregious violation of the civil asset forfeiture law that occurred in Ohio.”

These are interesting points. Still, people on all sides of the issue seem to agree one thing: Ohio law needs to find the right balance between law enforcement’s authority to seize property and an individual’s right to protect it.

Greg described the right balance this way:

“We can all agree that criminals must not keep their ill-gotten gains, and it is the just and proper role of the state to seize those illegal proceeds. Unfortunately, the state too often uses civil asset forfeiture without providing basic due process and property protections that a free and civil society demands.”

As a free market think tank and a supporter of property rights, The Buckeye Institute believes the government should be limited on when property can be taken from a person who hasn’t been convicted of a crime and sometimes not even charged with one.

Greg testified: “Measures taken in House Bill 347 signal proper respect for due process and private property rights and will prevent further erosion of the foundational bedrock that helps support her free market system.”

Dennis Cauchon ([email protected]) is a communications director for the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions. An earlier version of this article appeared at Reprinted with permission.