Washington, DC (May 24, 2011) --Today, two leading organizations have come together to advocate for reforms to states’ asset forfeiture laws—the power of police to seize property on mere suspicion of a crime and, in most states, keep some or all of the proceeds for their own use.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the preeminent organization in the United States ensuring justice for persons accused of crimes, and the Institute for Justice, the nation’s premier public interest law firm defending property rights, have jointly written and will support model state legislation that replaces civil forfeiture with criminal forfeiture. Further, the legislation would redirect the proceeds of seized assets away from the law enforcement unit making the arrest.
NACDL’s Board of Directors passed a resolution during its spring quarterly meeting on May 20, 2011, in Washington, DC, supporting the reform.
“The quintessential truth of the American legal system is that you are innocent until proven guilty,” said David B. Smith, NACDL board member and contributor to the model legislation. “These reforms are built on that ideal. By replacing civil forfeiture with criminal forfeiture, we end the practice of a person suspected of a crime having to enter a lawsuit against his own property in civil court. We require the state to convict the person before it takes title to the seized property. If there is no conviction, the person and his property go free.”
The reform legislation also goes directly to the core issue of asset forfeiture abuse: the perverse financial incentive. The Institute for Justice estimates that proceeds to states from forfeiture now exceed $500 billion per year. In only eight states are the proceeds from forfeitures under state law deposited in the state’s general treasury or a neutral fund. In the other 42 states, local law enforcement gets at least half of the proceeds, including 26 states where 100 percent of the proceeds supplement the budgets of the law enforcement agency that seized the property.
“The potential for abuse is rooted in the potential for law enforcement profits,” says Lee McGrath, the Institute for Justice’s legislative counsel and the lead author of the model legislation. “In the private sector, profits spur entrepreneurs to provide better products at lower prices and drive innovation to the benefit of all. But in the public sector, the allure of financial benefits embedded in civil forfeiture law encourages police and prosecutors to put the pursuit of property ahead of the pursuit of justice.”
During the current legislative session, the state legislatures in California and Minnesota considered legislation to reform their asset forfeiture laws.
“This model fills a void as state legislators across the country are looking for ways to reform asset forfeiture laws that fall desperately short of due process and give the wrong incentives to law enforcement,” McGrath said. “We look forward to working with the NACDL’s state chapters to get this legislation enacted across the country.”
The model legislation is available at: http://www.ij.org/legislation/3700
Pattern Cross-Examination for DNA and Biological Evidence: A Trial Strategy Guide
NACDL’s Pattern Cross-Examination for DNA and Biological Evidence will assist criminal defense practitioners in scoring points when cross-examining forensic experts in cases involving DNA and biological evidence. This resource contains thousands of questions that will help defense lawyers cross-examine challenging witnesses without reinventing the wheel with each new case. It includes pattern questions that can be used to dominate prosecution DNA experts and level the playing field at trial.
Cross-Examination of the Analyst in Drug Prosecutions (2nd Ed.) By James M. Shellow
Now in its second edition with some new material, James M. Shellow’s book offers what its title promises: ways of thinking about cross-examining the forensic analysts in drug cases. But the book is so much more than that. It offers a look inside the mind of one of the finest cross-examiners and defense lawyers the United States has produced in the last seventy years. This small book can inspire and direct you in making big changes in the way you defend your clients and think about the entire project of trying any case.
Justice For All, Justice Now White T-Shirt (Women’s)
This custom, vintage-faded NACDL t-shirt is 50% polyester, 25% cotton, and 25% rayon weighing 5.2 oz. and is lightwieght, flexible and soft, providing maximum comfort. It features the "Justice For All, Justice Now" slogan and Lady Liberty image on the front, with the NACDL logo on the back. Currently available in both men's and women's sizes in both black and white colors. View the full line-up of colors and sizes on our online store, as well as our other popular and best-selling t-shirt designs at: nacdl.org/store.
Drug Cases Resource Materials Collection - CD-ROM
NACDL’s Drug Cases Resource Materials Collection is the sweeping culmination of every single article of written materials ever published from each installment of NACDL's annual "Defending Modern Drug Cases" seminar. Totaling over 12,000 pages, this vast collection includes 12+ years of motions, briefs, reports, outlines, transcripts, case citations, scholarly articles, powerpoints and other written commentaries. This collection provides trial strategies and tactics you can immediately apply to your current cases.
Mental Illness & the Law: Addressing and Litigating Behavioral Health Disorders in Criminal Cases
Whether it is insanity, impairment, a disorder, or adolescent brain development; mental health and intellectual competence issues affect pretrial supervision, trial and sentencing, and your chances of successfully advocating for your impaired client. This training provides ideas and proven solutions to assist you in advocating for your client during trial, whether it be insanity defenses, jury selection, cross of expert witnesses, persuasion, or mitigation at sentencing.
Jack King, Public Affairs, (202) 872-8600 x228, email@example.com
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.