Kansas House Considers Major Asset Forfeiture Reforms

After Kansas passed the civil asset forfeiture bill in Kansas four years ago, Kansas House now considers two bills which would limit police department’s ability to steal property from Kansans. 

Police officers can seize money, property, cars, or homes as civil asset forfeiture. They claim that the items are illegal proceeds. These seizures are used to fund the police in many states. They don’t have to prove criminal connections or pursue legal action against property owners. Owners must prove a criminal connection to their property through a lengthy and expensive appeals process. 

Kansas House Bill 2648In order to seize property, police would need to file criminal charges. The bill states that “if no criminal charges or prosecution are declined”, the property will be turned over to its rightful owner. The state general fund would have to also be informed of successful seizures. Kansas’ current law permits police to keep their confiscated property, which is criticized by critics who claim civil asset forfeiture encourages police officers to make criminal claims that are impossible to prove.

House Bill 2640 It would prevent police from seizing cash worth less that $200 or vehicles valued less than 2,000. This new procedure also allows property owners to be granted new rights. to contest asset forfeiture. This would require public defenders to represent criminal defense clients during forfeiture proceedings. It also creates new notification requirements to prosecutors. These would be obliged to find potential owners of the seized assets and notify them of their rights to challenge forfeiture.  

Kansas advocates have supported the effort to reform civil forfeiture. This includes the Kansas chapter and the American Civil Liberties Union. Kansas Policy Institute is a free-market thinker.

Sam MacRoberts is the litigation director at the Kansas Justice Institute. This public-interest law firm and subsidiary of Kansas Policy Institute believes that Kansans are well aware of civil asset forfeiture. “I believe Kansans know that the law encourages profit-based policing and asset forfeiture is a way to facilitate abuse and overreach.”

MacRoberts stated, “That the government’s propensity and ability to seize or forfeit property of a person without a conviction for a crime poses a serious threat to our constitutional rights.” 

Micah Kubic (Executive Director of ACLU of Kansas) is eager for more reforms regarding asset forfeiture. According to Kubic, Kansasans of all political and ideological views have been angered at this unfair system. Reason. “To many Kansans, the idea that the government could seize a person’s property—their house, their car, their cash—without ever convicting, or even trying, them of a crime sounds like a dystopian fantasy. This is what the current law says and happens every day throughout the state.