Bill Tightens Restrictions On Asset Forfeiture By Law Enforcement
Billings Republican Daniel Zolnikov claims police are abusing laws that let them seize property from suspected drug offenders. He claims police seized $10,000 in cash from an out of state motorist pulled over for expired plates. Zolnikov says police took the money even though the man was never charged with a crime.
“This, mister chairman and members of the committee, is what I would consider literal highway robbery,” Zolnikov testified.
He says he can’t name the citizen, or the agency involved, because the case is still being litigated.
Zolnikov supports a bill to stop alleged abuses by law enforcement. Seized property could be forfeited only if the owner was convicted of a crime.
Deputy Attorney General Jon Bennion flatly denied that asset forfeiture is being abused in Montana.
“There’s no house forfeitures of people who may hold a party where alcohol is being served to minors and we’re not forfeiting lemonade stands that are being set up without permits."
Bennion says in Montana asset forfeiture always involves a court hearing before a judge. He called the reform bill unnecessary. The House Judiciary Committee will decide whether to forward the bill to the full House.