Tuesday, December 17, 2013 | 10 comments

Utah Legislature Unanimously and Unknowingly Gutted a 2000 Citizen Initiative

By Connor Boyack

Below is the executive summary for our newly released policy analysis, “Asset Forfeiture in Utah.” To read the entire report, click here.

A 2000 citizen initiative that passed by 69% of the vote in Utah introduced substantial restrictions on asset forfeiture—the process whereby the government seizes a citizen’s property—but several key provisions were overturned unanimously by the legislature in 2013 after lawmakers were told that the bill was a simple “re-codification.”

The initiative was created in large measure to prevent law enforcement agencies from directly profiting from the property they seized, as this financial opportunity created an incentive to seize property. The legislature amended the law in 2004 introducing some minor changes, including allowing proceeds from seized property to be funneled back to the agencies through the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice instead of being deposited in the Uniform School Fund.

In the 2013 legislative session, HB384 gutted many of the important protections introduced through the 2000 initiative, and left in place by the 2004 amendments. Sponsored by Representative Dee and Senator Bramble, the bill was pitched to colleagues as a simple “re-codification” of existing law—a “clean up bill” with little to no substantive changes being made. In the rush of the last days of the session, with likely few (if any) legislators reading over 50 pages comprised heavily of new text, and with the assurance of the bill being a re-codification, both chambers unanimously approved the bill.

As noted in our analysis, HB384 actually altered forfeiture law in an alarming way—a fact that many legislators may be concerned about when they realize what they were led to vote for, and that many citizens may be enraged about when they realize that the will of the people, as expressed in the 2000 initiative, has effectively been overturned.

Click here to continue reading.



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3 comments
Hannah DeForest
Hannah DeForest

Senator Bramble is no friend to transparency and liberty. I hope this gets someone's attention down in Provo.


Trackbacks

  1. […] new report published by the Libertas Institute, a free market think tank, reveals how a little-known new law greatly weakened legal protections […]

  2. […] reaction to our policy analysis highlighting several controversial changes made to forfeiture law in Utah, the Attorney […]

  3. […] Utah Attorney General’s office believes a recently passed law gutting protections for property owners facing government asset forfeiture gives the government a political weapon against attorneys […]

  4. […] A new report published by the Libertas Institute, a free market think tank, reveals how a little-known new law greatly weakened legal protections […]

  5. […] prime example of this is the asset forfeiture bill that ran last year which gutted private property protections. Every single legislator voted for it. Why? It was 51 pages of “new” text that nobody […]

  6. […] authority in our lives has placed property rights under direct and sustained attack. From asset forfeiture to the expanded use of eminent domain, and even to zoning regulations, property rights have waned […]

  7. […] Libertas Institute, a think tank based in Utah, issued a report last December that detailed how HB 384 gutted protections for innocent owners. As Libertas’ […]

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