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Wyoming Lawmaker Touts Asset Forfeiture Proposal

Wyoming Highway Patrol
Wyoming Highway Patrol
Donn Bruns, Lifestyle Photography. Republican, Teton County 2016
Donn Bruns, Lifestyle Photography. Sen. Leland Christensen Republican, Teton County 2016

The co-chair of the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee says an asset forfeiture proposal that will go before state lawmakers next month is a big improvement on the state’s current laws.

State Sen. Leland Christensen (R-Teton Co.) says that while the bill passed by the committee for consideration in the upcoming session wouldn’t require a criminal conviction before a person’s property could be seized, it would include a number of legal safeguards not found in current law.

He says it would require similar legal standards to those required for a criminal conviction, including a judge’s review of the evidence and a requirement that the weight of the evidence shows the person is guilty of a crime.

The state’s current law places the burden of proof on the person whose property is seized to show they are innocent of a crime, which in most forfeiture cases is related to drug trafficking.

The property seized, which can include such things as homes, cars, firearms and cash, goes to benefit law enforcement.

In many, though not all such cases, no criminal charges are filed against the person who has their property seized. The legislature last year passed a law requiring a criminal conviction before property could be seized.

That bill was vetoed by Governor Matt Mead, who said he doesn’t see a problem with the state’s current asset forfeiture.

A legislative attempt to override the governor’s veto fell short.

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