MADISON, Wisc. (April 2018) Yesterday, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill into law that reforms the states asset forfeiture laws to prohibit the state from taking property without a criminal conviction in most situations. The legislation also takes a small, but important step toward closing a [an unconstitutional] federal loophole that allows police to circumvent strict state forfeiture laws by passing cases off to the feds.
Sen. Dave Craig, (R-Town of Vernon), along with a bipartisan coalition of 26 legislators, introduced Senate Bill 61 (SB61) last year and it carried over to the 2018 session. The legislation reforms Wisconsin law by requiring a criminal conviction before prosecutors can proceed with asset forfeiture in most situations. It will also raise the evidentiary requirement for forfeiture from a preponderance of evidence to clear and convincing evidence.
The new law requires forfeiture money to primarily go into the state Common School Fund, but allows police to keep up to 50 percent of proceeds for administrative expenses of seizure, maintenance of custody, advertising and court costs and the costs of investigation and prosecution reasonably incurred.
The Senate passed SB61 by a 22-10 vote. The Assembly concurred, sending the bill to the governors desk. With Gov. Walkers signature, the law goes into effect April 5.
Civil asset forfeiture reform is an important step to ensure that no person is, deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment, Craig told the Journal Sentinal last year when the bill was introduced.