Posted by 11 June 2018
Thanks to an Iowa Supreme Court ruling, it will be a little more difficult for police to seize cash and property from people who are not convicted of crimes.
In late May, the state’s highest court said it was illegal for law enforcement to continue using a handful of practices that were common in the seizure and forfeiture of property. Civil asset forfeiture, where police take someone’s cash or property upon suspicion, not conviction, of a crime, is a controversial process. In recent years, media reports have brought to light many questionable cases that have occurred in Iowa.
The Supreme Court ruled on a case brought against the state by two men who had $45,000, some equipment, and their SUV taken by the law enforcement. One man was charged with speeding but no other crime.
The court’s decision held that law enforcement cannot require someone to answer questions about the property being seized in order to get it returned. The decision also held that a court must determine if law enforcement acted properly during the seizure prior to the court forfeiting that property to the state. In addition, the high court ended the practice of prosecutors dropping their challenge to people seeking return of their forfeited property at the last minute. This was a way to avoid being held liable for attorney costs if a court ruled against the state in such cases.
This decision strengthens protections that individuals in Iowa have against police taking their assets upon mere suspicion of criminal activity. It does not affect asset forfeiture in criminal cases.
Do you think that there should be stricter rules on the state taking someone’s property when that person is only suspected, but not convicted, of a crime?