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Civil Forfeiture Reform Could Go to Holcomb by Week's End

Bill creates due process protections when prosecutors try to seize assets

(INDIANAPOLIS) - If the cops seize your property, you may soon have a faster process to get it back.

Legislators were already working on civil forfeiture reform when a federal judge forced their hand by ruling the old law doesn't protect due process. The proposal awaiting a final House vote would require a judge to find probable cause within a week for seizing assets believed to be connected to drug dealing or other criminal conspiracies. 

Once probable cause is found, prosecutors wouldn't be allowed to dawdle indefinitely before starting the official forfeiture proceeding. They'd have to file their case within three months -- or three weeks if the owner demands his property back.

The Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council and Attorney General Curtis Hill's office are endorsing the measure. They say it creates appropriate protections while preserving what they call a critical tool for paying the costs of long and intensive investigations. Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry says the reforms will focus forfeiture cases on the major drug rings it was intended for -- he says the procedural requirements mean it won't be worth the time and effort to confiscate somebody's car.

The Senate has already passed the bill unanimously. If the full House doesn't make any changes, it could go to Governor Holcomb as early as Thursday.

(Photo: Brian A. Jackson/Thinkstock)


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