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Wednesday, October 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

Idaho lawmakers consider changing asset forfeiture laws

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press:

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Two state lawmakers are working on a bill to change laws police use to seize property during drug seizure cases.

Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, is working on the bill with Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridian, in hopes of ensuring property is only seized if it is directly connected to drug crimes, The Times-News reported (

The process of civil asset forfeiture allows police to take cash, cars, guns and other items used in the furtherance of drug crimes. The standard for seizures is the "preponderance of evidence" standard used in civil cases, lower than the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard used in drug cases.

In some cases assets have been seized even when the person is not charged with a crime.

"It really concerns us in this area of law, the government can uniquely punish people without going through the same processes and safeguards they would in a normal criminal procedure," Rubel said.

Rubel says she wants to scale back the types of property that can be taken so police are not overreaching. She said there have been cases where property is taken that was found near drugs but may not be connected to the crime.

Rubel also wants to change the law so property is seized only if someone is convicted of a crime. She said that is particularly important in cases where vehicles are seized.

"It's a real setback in Idaho to try and live your life without a car," she said.

Twin Falls County Prosecuting Attorney Grant Loebs said there are already protections for innocent property owners and requirements that law enforcement establish that the seized property was either used to help enable someone to commit a drug crime or was a benefit of committing the crime.

"I think that many of the proposals that are being made are going to make it very difficult for law enforcement to seize the proceeds of a drug crime or (seize) the means to commit a new drug crime, and that's the big concern we have about that," he said.

Rubel said she approached the House Judiciary and Rules Committee during the 2016 session about the idea but found committee leadership was not interested in the bill. A new Judiciary and Rules chairman is expected to be named this week and Rubel said the she hopes the bill will get off the ground this year.

"We're optimistic we'll be able to head into the session with a more developed bill (and a) broader range of supporters at our back," she said.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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