State Law Makes Asset Seizures More Transparent

Annual report detailing the value of all property seized at the state and local level in NH now required to be posted online…

Chris Sununu photo

Chris Sununu/Photo by Girard At Large (CC)

(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) A new law in New Hampshire seeks to bring more transparency to law enforcement’s profits from asset forfeiture.

SB498 was among 75 bills that Gov. Chris Sununu signed into law over a weeklong session, according to a June 8 press release from the governor’s office.

The bill requires the state attorney general’s office to post an annual report online detailing the value of all property seized at the state and local level, as provided by the law enforcement agencies.

The fiscal-year report also will list the proceeds from any seized items and provide a categorized account for how the money was spent.

The Institute for Justice, a property rights watchdog group, said such reform in the Granite State is long overdue.

The group said in a press release touting the new law that New Hampshire had seized $1.15 million in drug-related property from 1999 to 2013.

State and local law enforcement are allowed to split up to 90 percent of the income from forfeitures.

New Hampshire was one of 11 states, in addition to the District of Columbia and the Treasury Department, that received failing grades from IJ on its forfeiture transparency and accounting report card.

Only two states (Arizona and Colorado) received ‘A’ grades, along with the federal Justice Department.

“Wide-ranging transparency requirements are vital for keeping both the public and the state legislature well-informed about civil forfeiture in New Hampshire,” said Lee McGrath, senior legislative counsel at IJ.

IJ said 29 states and the District of Columbia have tightened their forfeiture laws since 2014, including the abolishment of forfeiture for civil cases in Nebraska and New Mexico.

**MORE COVERAGE OF CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE at LibertyHeadlines.com**

The institute previously has litigated a number of high-profile property rights cases, including five before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Four of those were judicial victories, according to the IJ website, while the last, the 2005 eminent domain ruling in Kelo v. City of New London, was won “in the court of public opinion,” it said.

Among the institute’s pending lawsuits are one involving airport customs authorities—which seized around $58,000 from a Cleveland man, Rustem Kazazi, while traveling back to his native Albania—and another lawsuit challenging the ticketing practices in the town of Doraville, Georgia.