Scot Turner’s idea: No conviction, no forfeiture of your stuff

February 20, 2014 Atlanta: Forfeiture victim Alda Gentile speaks during a press conference held by Georgians for Forfeiture Reform. Gentile had more than $11,000 seized while traveling through Georgia in route to a house hunting trip in Florida. She was not arrested or charged with a crime, but her cash was seized. Gantile eventually got her money back. The group is calling for a change to Georgia's civil forfeiture laws. BRANT SANDERLIN /BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

Forfeiture victim Alda Gentile speaks during a press conference in 2014 held by Georgians for Forfeiture Reform. Gentile had more than $11,000 seized while traveling through Georgia in route to a house-hunting trip in Florida. She was not arrested or charged with a crime, but her cash was seized. Gantile eventually got her money back. Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com

A new front has opened in the fight over civil forfeiture.

Rep. Scot Turner, R-Holly Springs, today will file legislation that contains what on its face seems like a no-brainer: The government cannot seize your stuff unless you’re convicted of a crime.

Turner’s bill, which as late Monday did not yet have a number, makes one simple change to state law. Instead of giving a court the option of stopping civil forfeiture while a criminal case is proceeding, Turner’s bill would say the court must do so.

“Regardless of the politics, it’s good policy,” Turner said Monday.

Rep. Scot Turner, R-Holly Springs

Rep. Scot Turner, R-Holly Springs

Civil forfeiture is essentially the ability of law enforcement to seize cash and property it suspects was used in the commission of a crime. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported extensively on the potential for abuse in the system.

Last year, after repeated failed efforts, lawmakers pushed through changes in the law, which consolidated different rules and created a uniform procedure that also requires greater transparency and reporting. House Bill 233, by Rep. Alex Atwood, R-St. Simons Island, also added the language referenced above, giving a judge power to stop it.

Atwood’s bill had the support of law enforcement, which had been reluctant to sign on to other proposed overhauls. Turner said he has a feeling they won’t be championing his bill.

“I have talked with my local DA,” Turner said. “I do not think they support it.”

 


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