At an appropriations subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, January 28 2015, the Superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol was asked about the impact of Eric Holder's recent asset forfeiture reforms. He replied that "the policy has changed that you now have to have a felony arrest associated with that cash seizure." While more guidance will come from the Department of Justice, and from various courts, for the time being it appears as though law enforcement expects a direct negative impact as a result of Holder's announcement. Just last week, the Poplar Bluff Police Chief and Butler County Sheriff also expressed their grave view of policing following forfeiture reform.
Additionally, State Representative Justin Hill, who is leading the inquiry to the Highway Patrol Superintendent, goes on to suggest that he will introduce legislation to counteract the announced reforms. He asked if the Superintendent was aware of, "any local states that might have their own asset forfeiture laws so they don't have to work with the federal government?" After the Highway Patrol references Kansas as a potential state on which to model legislation, Representative Hill goes on to ask them to send him "information on what states we can model that after." He is perhaps unaware that the Missouri Constitution already requires all asset forfeiture proceeds seized under state law go to the state's public schools.
Representative Hill's disturbing and misguided advocacy for looser asset forfeiture laws should come as no surprise. Representative Hill served on the St. Charles County Regional Drug Task Force for several years prior to being elected. This drug task force was one of the worst offenders in the state among abusers of asset forfeiture; the money seized last year EXCEEDS the entire budget of the task force itself.
Evidence is growing now that suggests Holder's reforms are far more than symbolic in nature. While his announcement certainly won't end asset forfeiture outright, the anger of law enforcement officers who enjoy engaging in the practice seems to suggest forfeiture will be dealt a significant blow.