Forfeiture Reform Bill Passes House
by Ari Armstrong
[The following article originally appeared in the May 2002 edition of Colorado Liberty.]
Forfeiture Reform Bill Passes House
House Bill 1404, the asset forfeiture reform bill, passed the house April 16 on a vote of 51 to 11. The Libertarian Party of Colorado issued a press release and an action alert in support of the bill, thereby joining a surprisingly diverse coalition that brought together people from across the political spectrum.
Rep. Shawn Mitchell shepherded the bill through the house. Attempts to pass forfeiture reform in previous years failed largely because of intense lobbying by district attorneys and others in law enforcement.
Colorado Liberty went to press before the state senate voted on the bill. To read updates about its progress, please see www.lpcolorado.org.
Others who supported the legislation include Christie Donner of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition and David Kopel of the Independence Institute.
In addition, the bill received editorial support from The Denver Post, The Rocky Mountain News, The Daily Sentinel, the Colorado Springs Gazette, and The Durango Herald. Similar reforms have recently been enacted in New Mexico, Utah, Oregon, and Missouri.
Mitchell said the bill contains three main reforms.
1. The bill would require that an owner be convicted of a crime in most cases before the government can pursue forfeiture of his or her property. The main exceptions are if a person is a fugitive from justice or if an owner knowingly allows criminal activity to continue on his or her property. Innocent third-party owners would gain new protections under the bill.
2. 1404 requires in every case that the government prove by the higher standard of "clear and convincing evidence" that the property should be forfeited.
3. The bill seeks to remove the conflict of interest when the agency pursuing forfeiture gets to decide how the money is spent. Instead, the proceeds of forfeiture would first pay off lien holders, innocent co-owners, and victims. Then 50% of the money would go to the general fund of the local government where the forfeiture took place, and 50% would go to treat substance abuse.
The 11 "no" votes were cast by Reps. Borodkin, Chavez, Coleman, Hodge, Mace, Ragsdale, Romanoff, Saliman, Veiga, Vigil, and Weddig.
LPEP Announces Awards Banquet
The El Paso County affiliate will host the Libertarian Party of Colorado 5th Annual Awards Banquet August 17.
The featured speaker is John Taylor Gatto, author of Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling and The Underground History of American Education.
Gatto was named Teacher of the Year in New York, but he quit his job, claiming he "was no longer willing to hurt children." He now speaks about education reform all across the nation.
Gatto writes, "Over the years of wrestling with the obstacles that stand between child and education I have come to believe that government monopoly schools are structurally unreformable."
The banquet will be held at the Radisson Inn, 8110 N. Academy Blvd., Colorado Springs. It is scheduled for 6-10 pm. Tickets cost $45 per person and include dinner.
Nancy Graves, LPEP Activities Director, is coordinating the event. She may be reached at 719.570.0747 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and the group's web page is at www.lpep.org. Checks may be made out to "Libertarian Party of El Paso County" and mailed to Nancy Graves, 3724 East LaSalle Street #1310, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80909.
Shnelvar Plans for Rally
Ralph Shnelvar plans to participate in a rally with Ken Gorman June 1 to advocate the legalization of marijuana. The event was originally scheduled for April 20, but Gorman postponed it due to bad weather. Still, around 300 people showed up that day, so Shnelvar and Gorman gave speeches and handed out literature.
Shnelvar reports his team has handed out over 3,000 flyers promoting the event, which is also featured on his web page at www.shnelvar.com. In addition, Gorman has already handed out thousands of his own flyers.
Shnelvar said, "Ken Gorman is a cult figure who is well known in the marijuana legalization community. It is absolutely astonishing how many people know who he is. Gorman and all those associated with the marijuana legalization movement felt bitter disappointment when snow was forcast for April 20 in Denver. But the June 1 event now planned will be even bigger and better given the extra time available for planning and leafletting."
Gorman was actually arrested on the 16th Street Mall April 6 for handing out flyers. He was detained by RTD security guards and then arrested by Denver police. Shnelvar contacted RTD on Gorman's behalf to determine why he was arrested. RTD Chief Public Affairs Officer Scott Reed sent Shnelvar a fax dated April 9 that reads, "The Regional Transportation District (RTD) permits persons to distribute information on the public property areas outside transit stations."
Shnelvar Addresses DU Class
Ralph Shnelvar addressed a drug policy class at the University of Denver April 15 titled, "Coase, Peanuts, and Pot." He argued property rights are essential for a peaceful society.
He told the class, "[G]overnment trying to stop people from owning marijuana or alcohol or guns or gold or books (each of these was illegal to own privately at one or another time in history) will create the individual violence and/or the Mafia that it and the general public so justly despise. The problem, of course, is that the government has created the Mafia by making the product illegal in the first place."