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Asset forfeiture reform bill falls victim to shortened legislative session

Posted by   /  May 29, 2020  /  No Comments

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A Navajo County Sheriff’s Office deputy makes a traffic stop near Holbrook, Arizona on Nov. 22, 2016, in an effort to find and seize drugs along Interstate 40. Navajo County uses forfeiture money to partially fund the salaries of its drug task force.
/Photo by Emily L. Mahoney /Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting

By Jeremy Duda | Arizona Mirror

In a normal legislative session, lawmakers, prosecutors and interest groups would have had some time to hash out their differences on civil asset forfeiture, possibly paving the way for the passage of a reform that advocates have sought for years.

The 2020 session, however, was far from normal. The COVID-19 crisis led the legislature to go on hiatus for more than a month, and when lawmakers returned to the Capitol, the House of Representatives and Senate operated independently of each other, with little coordination or cooperation.

Senate Bill 1556 would have made a number of changes to Arizona’s civil asset forfeiture system, under which law enforcement and prosecutors can take money and property allegedly used for or resulting from crimes. Chief among them would be to require a criminal conviction before property can be permanently taken.

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