New law cuts off Funds from Asset Seizures for Police Agencies
According to federal data, federal law enforcement operations seized almost $1.9 billion worth of items from suspects nationwide last year, which is a drop from $2.6 billion just three years earlier. In California, Senate Bill 443 (SB 443) went into effect in 2017 and local law enforcement agencies have felt the effects of the slash in funding from asset seizures due to this law. Before the law, local agencies were allowed to keep proceeds from asset seizures when a suspect was arrested. However, the state law changed it to where local agencies are only allowed to keep the proceeds only if a suspect is convicted of a crime. The law was meant to protect personal property, but it also resulted in a drop in California’s overall share of these seized funds. In an email sent to Southern California News Group (SCNG), a legislative attorney with the ACLU of California Center for Advocacy & Policy named Mica Doctoroff stated the following,
The goal of SB 443 was simple: to rein in policing for profit in California and reestablish some of the most basic tenets of constitutional law and values. In particular, the bipartisan-backed law was designed to prevent California law enforcement agencies from circumventing state law in order to use the federal civil asset forfeiture process to profit off the backs of property owners who have not been convicted of an underlying crime.
SB 443 closed a loophole for state and local agencies when it comes to asset seizures, but it didn’t close it for the federal government. According to SCNG, here are some decreases to local agencies in funding from asset seizures due to SB 443: the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department saw a drop from $5.3 million to $3.7 million, San Bernardino agencies dropped from $2.9 million to $258,996, Riverside agencies dropped from $2.1 million to $1.2 million, and both the Santa Ana and Anaheim police departments dropped from $4.2 million to $1.7 million. Civil rights activists believed SB 443 was one of the nation’s most far-reaching protections against asset forfeiture abuse. However, the data suggests that seizures in California haven’t necessarily dropped, but rather that local agencies no longer get as big a cut from asset seizures. We will have to wait and see if law enforcement agencies will be able to adjust to the decrease of funds from asset seizures due to SB 443.