Guv Signs Civil Asset Forfeiture Reforms into Law

(June 9) – Gov. John Hickenlooper signed Rep. Leslie Herod’s HB17-1313 this afternoon, enhancing due process and adding much-needed transparency to Colorado’s asset forfeiture statutes, the process where law enforcement seizes an individual’s property if they believe it may be connected to a crime.

“I’m thrilled the governor signed this critical legislation. This is a great next step forward for basic fairness and Coloradans’ rights to due process,” said Rep. Herod, D-Denver.

“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. 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,” Herod continued.

The bill has two major provisions. It bolsters reporting requirements for law enforcement agencies that participate in asset forfeiture proceedings, including requiring them to submit biannual reports to the governor, attorney general and legislature with specific information detailing seizures that they participate in, and posting publicly online how agencies spent the proceeds derived from forfeitures.

Secondly, for smaller forfeiture actions – those of $50,000 or less – it requires law enforcement to utilize Colorado’s state-level process, which has stronger due process protections for Coloradans than the federal process. For federal proceedings, a suspect has to demonstrate the assets that were seized were obtained legally, regardless of the outcome of a criminal proceeding. Colorado’s statute requires the state to pursue a criminal-level conviction to demonstrate the assets were derived from illegal activity.

“Recognizing that civil asset forfeiture is an important tool when properly applied, this new law will provide the data agencies and lawmakers need to ensure Colorado’s forfeiture laws are being used appropriately,” Rep. Herod continued. “For smaller asset forfeitures, the bill ensures policing agencies use Colorado’s stronger process for conducting these actions, which will help to protect Coloradans. This bill preserves law enforcement’s ability to confiscate the fruits of crimes while also protecting innocent Coloradans’ due process rights.”

Following the signing of HB 17-1313, and in reaction to the Governor’s signing statement, Representative Herod committed to working with stakeholders through the interim on this important policy area for the next legislative session.

This year’s legislation was supported by a broad, bipartisan coalition of lawmakers and interest groups ranging on both sides of the political spectrum, from the ACLU to the Institute for Justice. Sponsored in the House by Rep. Herod and Rep. Stephen Humphrey, and sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Daniel Kagan and Sen. Tim Neville, the bill received sweeping support in both chambers, earning yes votes from 81 of the General Assembly’s 100 legislators.

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