Maricopa County attorney urges Ducey to veto bill that would reform civil forfeiture law

Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel/Arizona Bar Association

By Perry Vandell |Arizona Republic

Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel sent a letter to Gov. Doug Ducey on Friday urging him to veto a bill that would make sweeping reforms to Arizona’s civil forfeiture laws and, in many cases, make it more difficult for the government to keep seized property without a criminal conviction.

House Bill 2810 passed the Senate almost unanimously on a 29-1 vote last week and now sits on Ducey’s desk where it will either be signed into law, vetoed or passed into law without the governor’s signature after a couple more days.

In the letter, Adel alleges that HB 2810 would place Arizona at greater risk to drug cartels and human trafficking while allowing crime syndicates to run rampant, should it be passed into law.

“This bill reflects a gross misunderstanding of the role civil asset forfeiture plays in keeping our community safe,” Adel wrote. “Civil asset forfeiture is an important and powerful tool, used by law enforcement to efficiently interrupt the money supply of criminal enterprises and quickly recover property for victims of crime.”

Adel further argues that HB 2810 requires a criminal conviction before law enforcement can seize any assets, which in turn would allow criminal enterprises to operate for “months or years” while their criminal case worked through the system.

“In many situations, while it may be obvious that funds are the product of criminal activity, the criminal syndicate is sophisticated enough to conduct their activities across state or national borders effectively eluding prosecution,” Adel wrote. “Taking their illegally obtained funds hinders their ability to conduct business as usual.”

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