Wyoming House Democratic Leader: Split On Asset Law
Wyoming House Minority Floor Leader Mary Throne of Cheyenne says house Democrats are split over the state's current asset forfeiture law and whether it needs to be changed.
The house on Tuesday approved introduction of a bill that would require a criminal conviction before private property can be seized. That bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee for further consideration. A similar bill last year passed the legislature, but was vetoed by Governor Matt Mead.
A legislative effort to override the veto fell short.
Throne says that while she hasn't had a chance yet to study the latest bill, in general she's not a fan of asset forfeiture laws and the way they are often applied. Throne recalls that when she was in law school on the east coast she thought the laws were often "heavy handed" and tended to be abused.
She says that while the people targeted by the laws were often "bad guys", in general she doesn't like the idea of property being seized without someone actually being convicted of a crime.
But she also says the issue tends to divide both Democrats in the legislature and the public as a whole. She says prosecutors and law enforcement often like the laws, which give law enforcement agencies more resources to fight crime.
But she says those who highly value personal freedom are often opposed to the laws as they are currently written.. The current Wyoming asset forfeiture law, like such laws in many states, puts the burden of proof on the person who has their property seized--essentially forcing them to prove they are innocent.
Governor Mead--former federal prosecutor--said last year he didn't think the law is being abused in Wyoming and doesn't need to be changed.
Besides the house bill, another asset forfeiture bill being proposed in the state Senate would make it tougher to seize private property than is currently the case, although it wouldn't require an actual conviction