(Aug. 8) – Rep. Leslie Herod’s reform of Colorado asset forfeiture, the process where law enforcement seizes an individual’s property if they believe it may be connected to a crime, goes into effect on Wednesday.
“Four legislators from across the political spectrum came together to bring this bill forward because we believe we must safeguard Coloradans’ rights to their own property if they aren’t guilty of any crime,” said Rep. Herod, D-Denver. “People should be treated as innocent until proven guilty, and we owe it to all Coloradans to uphold their rights to property and due process.”
The new law, HB17-1313, was sponsored with Rep. Steve Humphrey, R-Ault, in the House and Sens. Daniel Kagan and Tim Neville in the state Senate, and passed the General Assembly with the aye votes of 81 of the 100 legislators. It bolsters reporting requirements for law enforcement agencies that participate in asset forfeiture proceedings, including requiring them to submit reports to the governor, attorney general and legislature detailing seizures that they participate in and posting publicly online how agencies spent the proceeds derived from forfeitures.
For smaller forfeiture actions – those of $50,000 or less – law enforcement is required to utilize Colorado’s state-level process, which has stronger due process protections than the federal process. For federal proceedings, a suspect has to demonstrate that the assets that were seized were obtained legally, regardless of the outcome of a criminal proceeding. Colorado’s statute places the burden of proof on the state. This provision will be a Colorado barrier to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ effort to expand the use of civil forfeiture across the country.
“This new law preserves law enforcement’s ability to confiscate the fruits of crimes while also protecting due process rights,” Rep. Herod said.
The new law was one of 214 that went into effect today, the 90th day after the end of the 2017 legislative session.