Syrita Bowen News, Press

Senate Bill 308 Protects Property Rights, Strengthens Due Process  

(LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS) – Today, the Arkansas Senate Judiciary committee voted to advance the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2019 (Senate Bill 308). The bill passed the committee with a unanimous, bipartisan vote. The bill will overhaul the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws to ensure that innocent citizens are not forced to forfeit their property without due process of law. This legislation was championed by Senate Majority Leader Bart Hester (R-1) and Representative Austin McCollum (R-95).

Under Senate Bill 308, no property will be forfeited by the government unless there is a related criminal conviction, with certain exceptions. 

“While forfeiture is an important tool for law enforcement to combat crime, current forfeiture law is far too broad, and allows the government to seize and keep citizens’ cash, personal property, and even their homes and businesses without charging them with a crime, let alone convicting them,” said Jenna Moll, Deputy Director of Justice Action Network. “Senator Hester and Representative McCollum worked to craft a new policy, one that maintains forfeiture as a tool for those convicted of a crime, while protecting the property rights of the innocent people of Arkansas. Today’s strong vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee was an important first step, and clearly demonstrated the bipartisan support for these reforms.”

“Today, Arkansas took a big step forward to ensure assets from innocent Arkansans will not be seized by the state,” said Senate Majority leader Bart Hester. “It was my pleasure to sit down with criminal justice reform advocates from the Justice Action Network and the Arkansas Prosecuting Attorneys Association and develop legislation which sets guilt as condition of forfeiture.  We will continue to work together to see this goal through and prevent the opportunity for over reach by the state.”  

“It was my pleasure to work with Arkansas’ Prosecutors and the Justice Action Network to develop a policy everyone agrees is the right policy, a policy which prevents our state from seizing and keeping assets from individuals who are not guilty,” said Representative Austin McCollum. “This bill is a testament to finding agreement, talking through practical challenges, and raising the standard to ensure our citizens have more protections in place.”

The legislation now heads to the full Senate for a vote.