I just caught this piece of legislation as it’s been assigned a number and sent to the floor for committee assignment. This measure has been introduced to expand civil forfeiture laws from drug felonies to DUI:
HOUSE BILL NO. 1085
Introduced by: Representatives Haggar (Don), Bolin, DiSanto, Hawley, Latterell, May, Novstrup (Al), Rasmussen, Tulson, and Wiik and Senators Haggar (Jenna), Holien, Olson, Omdahl, and Solano
FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to provide for the forfeiture of any vehicle used by a person convicted of a third offense for driving under the influence.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:
Section 1. That chapter 32-23 be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:
Any person who is convicted of a third offense violation of § 32-23-1 may forfeit to the state the person’s interest in the vehicle used in the commission of the violation. The state shall process the forfeiture pursuant to the proceedings of § 34-20B-71 to § 34-20B-80, inclusive, and § 34-20B-85 to § 34-20B-88, inclusive. No vehicle may be forfeited pursuant to this section if a co-owner of the vehicle is an innocent party and the forfeiture would create undue hardship on the co-owner.
I might be the only one out there complaining about it, but I can’t help but groan. A bill has been introduced to expand the power of government….. again? This bill represents a tremendous and overly broad expansion of the power of the state when it comes to civil forfeiture.
As it has been used traditionally when it comes to the drug trade, civil forfeiture is used as a tool to thwart criminal organizations involved in the illegal drug trade, with $12 billion annual profits since it allows authorities to seize cash and other assets resulting from narcotics trafficking. In other words, when it comes to drug use, it is done to remove the element of profitability from the drug trade, since it takes a person’s stuff on the basis as having being purchased with the proceeds of illegal activity.
There’s the problem with this measure. This bill, it doesn’t have anything to do with depriving a felon of the profits of illegal activity. It’s an act to just take a person’s stuff in further punishment. They might have well said they shall take their dog too, because neither are derived from illegal profits.
And what happens to the lien-holders on these confiscated vehicles? I can’t imagine they’d be excited about a measure like this.
Maybe it’s just me, but why are we giving government more power to take our stuff? That doesn’t seem as something in line with Republican principles of limited government. That sounds like it’s in line with a tremendous amount of authority being handed over to government. That kind of authority borders on trying to create a police state.
And interestingly, after complaints from the public, civil forfeiture as exercised by states and the federal government is actually in the process of being limited after it’s excessive use in many cases. So, why are we trying to go the other way?
I don’t want drunks on the road any more than the next person. But, as a Republican who believes in limited government, I certainly don’t want to live in a police state, either.
“That government is best which governs least.”
– Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience.