MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - State leaders say they are pulling back the veil on civil asset forfeitures.
Civil asset forfeitures are items used in the commission of a crime. Asset forfeitures generally include seized evidence like drugs, cash, cars and really anything used to further criminal activity. If law enforcement can prove a direct connection to that crime, a judge can turn that seizure over to them to use for law enforcement, often bridging the funding gap.
Thursday, the District Attorney’s Association announced a civil asset forfeiture agreement to create a new, public database to hold the information about all seizures.
This database would show every piece of evidence in asset forfeiture in the state, with around 30 data points. This is important for those who unknowingly have their property used in a crime and seized by law enforcement. Organizers say this database will make it easier to file a third party claim for property and follow the due process.
“My brothers and sisters in law enforcement believe it’s important to have the avenue and ability to remove instruments of crime and use them for the betterment of public service. The DA right here in Montgomery County puts every single dime he gets through forfeiture,” said District Attorney Tom Anderson of the 12th Judicial Circuit.
Many have criticized the process - or lack of transparency.
Thursday the SPLC called for Alabama to require a criminal conviction before a judge could turn over the seizure to law enforcement. Organizers say this isn’t possible, because some defendants go to drug court or mental health court.