Another Attempt at Asset Forfeiture Reform

S.380 reforms South Carolina’s asset forfeiture laws by stipulating that all property subject to forfeiture reform may not be seized by an investigating agency prior to a criminal conviction. Other provision in the bill require any monetary proceeds from forfeiture be remitted to the state general fund by way of the state treasurer. This latter reform will remove much of the incentive law enforcement and prosecutors have to abuse their forfeiture powers. Under current law enforcement may keep 95 percent of the proceeds from the sale of seized assets, 75 percent being remitted to the law enforcement agency and 20 percent going to prosecutors.

S.380 represents a strong reform of existing laws but additional provisions could bring the bill closer to total reform. In addition to the reforms laid out in this bill, Law enforcement should also have to publish data on the revenue from forfeiture and its specific sources. Finally, state law should prohibit SLED and local law enforcement from participating in any federal forfeiture programs that enable law enforcement to seize and retain the value of seized property by going around state law.

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