Administrative forfeiture reauthorization dies

By Aaron Rice
February 5, 2019

A bill that would have reauthorized administrative forfeiture in Mississippi appears to have died on the calendar.

House Bill 1104, which was authored by Rep. Mark Baker (R-Brandon), did not come up in a Judiciary A committee meeting this morning as lawmakers were busy moving legislation before the deadline for committees to report on legislation.

Baker told WLBT’s Courtney Ann Jackson that there wasn’t support for the bill in the Republican caucus.

All bills that do not make it out of committee today are dead for 2019, unless the governor calls a special session or supporters find a way to amend a bill that is still alive.

Last session, the legislature let administrative forfeiture die when the law authorizing the program was not renewed. Previously, administrative forfeiture allowed agents of the state to take property valued under $20,000 and forfeit it by merely obtaining a warrant and providing the individual with a notice. In order to get the property back, an individual was required to file a petition in court within 30 days and incur legal fees in order to contest the forfeiture and recover such assets.

For these reasons, administrative forfeiture was viewed as a particularly pernicious policy that placed lower-income property owners in the difficult situation of deciding whether to pay a legal bill that could exceed the value of the forfeited assets in order to get their property back if they were not involved in a drug-related crime.

The state is still allowed to seize and keep property through civil forfeiture, a process that requires the state to go before a judge for an adjudication of whether the property should be forfeited, even if the owner does not file suit. Additionally, this has no impact on the state’s ability to seize property through criminal forfeiture.


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