Opinion: Bring transparency to Colorado forfeiture and seizure

The Denver Post: Across Colorado, law enforcement can confiscate cash, cars and other property from people, often without ever charging them with a crime. Agencies then get a cut of the proceeds, which they can spend on virtually whatever they want — all without ever telling the public what they bought. Known as civil forfeiture, this policy is one of the greatest threats to property rights.

Now the General Assembly has a chance to bring forfeiture activity and spending into the light of day. On Wednesday, the Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Senate Bill 136, which would dramatically improve reporting requirements for Colorado’s forfeiture laws. Sponsored by Sens. Tim Neville and Daniel Kagan, SB 136 has already earned support from members of both parties.

In a nationwide study on forfeiture transparency and accountability by the Institute for Justice, Colorado received poor marks. Current law does not require law enforcement agencies to report even such basic details as when and where they seized property or whether anyone made a claim for its return. Colorado also earned two F’s for its failure to disclose forfeiture spending or to produce statewide forfeiture reports.

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