Late yesterday, the Ohio House and Senate overwhelmingly passed HB 347, an important overhaul of the state’s civil forfeiture laws. Under current law, Ohioans do not have to be convicted, much less charged with a crime, for the government to take their property through civil forfeiture. The bill now heads to Gov. John Kasich for his signature.
“Civil forfeiture is one of the most serious assaults on due process and private property rights in the United States today,” said Institute for Justice Legislative Counsel Lee McGrath. “Requiring a criminal conviction would curb this abuse of power.”
Absent reform, forfeiture has been a windfall for law enforcement. Last year, a report by the Institute for Justice found that between 2010 and 2012, Ohio law enforcement collected at least $25.7 million in forfeiture revenue.
To better protect innocent property owners, HB 347 would:
- Generally require a criminal conviction (or its equivalent) as a prerequisite to forfeit property at under $15,000. That threshold would be prospectively adjusted for inflation.
- Raise the standard of proof to clear and convincing evidence for state civil forfeiture proceedings.
- Ban transferring seized property valued at under $100,000 to a federal agency, which would close the “equitable-sharing” loophole.