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Representative Wendell K. Willard, Chair of Georgia’s House Judiciary Committee, is proposing comprehensive reform of Georgia’s asset forfeiture laws. Willard’s proposal appears to

  1. elevate the state’s burden of proof to a showing of “clear and convincing evidence that seized property is subject to forfeiture”;
  2. deny law enforcement agencies access to civil forfeiture proceeds where agencies misuse “property derived or resulting from civil forfeiture actions” as well as deny access to forfeiture proceeds where agencies fail to submit and make public (through the Carl Vinson Institute of Government) annual reports ”specifying the property received during the fiscal year and clearly identifying the use of such property, including the specifics of all monetary expenditures”;
  3. require Georgia law enforcement receiving federal forfeiture proceeds comply with Georgia’s proposed accountability restrictions as well;
  4. cap forfeiture proceeds paid to district attorneys’ offices at 10% of forfeiture proceeds and limit applicable usage of such payments to the offices’ “trial expenses, victim-witness services, training expenses, travel expenses, and maintenance or improvement of equipment”; and
  5. clarify and simplify forfeiture laws in Georgia through a comprehensive re-write–including eliminating obsolete and conflicting code.

The proposed legislation requires further study and it appears some tinkering might be in order… Nonetheless, Representative Willard seems to be on the right track.

Some of the notable proposed changes:

9-16-18.

533 (a)  The state’s burden of proof shall be to show by clear and convincing evidence that
534 seized property is subject to forfeiture.
535 (b)  The fact that currency or a negotiable instrument was found in proximity to contraband
536 or to an instrumentality of conduct giving rise to forfeiture shall authorize the trier of fact
537 to infer that the currency or negotiable instrument was the proceeds of conduct giving rise
538 to forfeiture or was used or intended to be used to facilitate such conduct.
539 (c)  There shall be a rebuttable presumption that any property of a person is subject to
540 forfeiture under this chapter if the state attorney establishes by clear and convincing
541 evidence that:
542 (1)  The person has engaged in conduct giving rise to forfeiture;
543 (2)  The property was acquired by the person during the period of the conduct giving rise
544 to forfeiture or within a reasonable time after such period; and
545 (3)  There was no likely source for the property other than the conduct giving rise to
546 forfeiture.
(9-16-20)(e)
(4)  After the payment of costs, expenses, and court costs and upon the request of the
615 district attorney, the order of distribution may provide that up to 10 percent of the
616 remaining pool be paid to the district attorney’s office for its efforts in prosecuting the
617 forfeiture proceedings.  Any sum paid to the district attorney’s office shall only be utilized
618 for the payment of the office’s trial expenses, victim-witness services, training expenses,
619 travel expenses, and maintenance or improvement of equipment.
662 (9-16-20)
(g)(1)  The Administrative Office of the Courts shall promulgate and from time to time
663 amend as necessary and post on its website an annual reporting form for use by local law
664 enforcement agencies and multijurisdictional task forces to report forfeited property as
665 set forth in this subsection.
666 (2)  Every local law enforcement agency and multijurisdictional task force receiving
667 forfeiture property, including property distributed in kind, shall submit an annual report
668 to the political subdivision and the district attorney governing its jurisdiction specifying
669 the property received during the fiscal year and clearly identifing the use of such
670 property, including the specifics of all monetary expenditures.  Such annual report shall
671 be submitted to the applicable political subdivision and district attorney at the same time
672 as such agency’s or task force’s budget request.  No  political subdivision shall accept for
673 filing any annual report unless the report is on a form promulgated by the Administrative
674 Office of the Courts and such form is appropriately and legibly completed.
675 (3)  A copy of the annual report required by this subsection shall also be submitted to the
676 Carl Vinson Institute of Government of the University of Georgia as provided in Code
677 Section 36-80-21.
678 (4)  If a local law enforcement agency or multijurisdictional task force fails to comply
679 with this subsection or misuses property derived or resulting from civil forfeiture actions,
680 such agency or task force shall not be eligible to receive property derived or resulting
681 from civil forfeiture actions for a period of two years commencing on a date determined
682 by the district attorney of the judicial circuit having appropriate jurisdiction.  Any
683 property forfeited during a two-year suspension period shall be shall be paid over into the
684 general fund of the state treasury.  The district attorney shall ensure that civil forfeiture
685 disposition orders reflect the disposition of such property.
724 9-16-22.
725 (a)  Property seized or forfeited pursuant to federal law, and such property or proceeds
726 derived therefrom, authorized by such federal law to be transferred to a cooperating law
727 enforcement agency of this state or any political subdivision thereof shall be utilized by the
728 law enforcement agency or political subdivision to which the property or proceeds are so
729 transferred as provided by such federal law and regulations thereunder.  If federal law is
730 silent as to the utilization of such property or proceeds, the property and proceeds shall be
731 disposed of and utilized as set forth in Code Section 9-16-20.
732 (b)  Any law enforcement agency receiving property or proceeds pursuant to federal law
733 shall also comply with subsection (g) of Code Section 9-16-20.
Section 2-8
(k)  Seizing agencies shall utilize their best efforts to arrange for the towing and storing
978 of motor vehicles and motor vehicle parts in the most economical manner possible.  In no
979 event shall the owner of a motor vehicle or a motor vehicle part be required to pay more
980 than the minimum reasonable costs of towing and storage.

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2 Responses to “GA House Judiciary Chair Wendell K. Willard introduces forfeiture reform legislation in Georgia”

  1. [...] Willard, Chairman of Georgia’s House Judiciary Committee, in sponsoring GA HB 1 (2013), the Georgia Uniform Civil Forfeiture Procedure Act. The landmark legislation [...]

  2. [...] Association and Putnam County (GA) Sheriff, has voiced opposition to Georgia House Bill 1, the Georgia Uniform Civil Forfeiture Procedure Act. The civil forfeiture reform proposal, introduced by Representative Wendell K. Willard, Chairman [...]

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