Montana Governor Steve Bullock has signed House Bill 463 into law, a proposal to drastically overhaul the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws.
Civil asset forfeiture is a tool used by police where they seize property suspected of being related to some form of criminal activity. The primary point of contention with this policy is that police can seizure the property without first obtaining a conviction, or even charging someone with a crime. Police can then use the seized property to turn a profit, which goes directly to the police department.
The new law will change the way civil asset forfeitures are handles, by requiring that someone be actually convicted of a crime before police can permanently seize their property. The law also raises the threshold for any forfeiture in the event of a conviction, requiring that police present “clear and convincing evidence” that the property is connected to criminal activity.
“Thanks to Governor Bullock’s signing of HB 463, the due process protections that our founders envisioned when authoring the 5th Amendment are now much stronger,” said Representative Kelly McCarthy, the bill’s primary sponsor, in a press release.
“Innocent Montanans do not have to fear losing their assets to the state when they’ve not committed a crime and those facing forfeiture are now assured fair treatment in Montana court rooms.”