By Zavier Bicott, Chair, MN Republican Liberty Caucus
State Representative Andrew Carlson (DFL, Bloomington) does not seem to get that his first responsibility is to defend his constituents' constitutional rights including due process and property rights.
A Minnesotan who has not been convicted or even been charged with a crime should not lose his property through civil asset forfeiture.
But more than 7,000 times a year, Minnesotans are forfeiting property in civil court regardless of whether any criminal prosecution takes place in criminal court.
Sadly, Rep. Carlson supports the continued use of civil forfeiture.
He voted against the forfeiture reform bill, HF 1971, on March 11 in the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee.
The reform bill ends civil forfeiture and replaces it with criminal forfeiture. It requires a conviction as a prerequisite to losing title to property. That's the process all Minnesotans are due.
Fortunately, HF 1971 has enormous bipartisan support. Committee Chairs John Lesch and Carlos Mariani, both Democrats from St.Paul, are authoring the bill. The bill has 12 co-authors, 8 of whom are Republicans including conservative/libertarians Reps. Peggy Scott (R-Andover), Eric Lucero (R-Dayton) and Cal Bahr (R-East Bethel)
But Rep. Carlson is not finished. He now threatens to offer an amendment on Tuesday to stop Chair Lesch from rolling HF 1971 into HF 2705, the Committee's omnibus budget bill.
Law enforcement agencies that oppose forfeiture reform are supporting Rep. Carlson's amendment. This is because the reform bill ends forfeiture proceeds going to supplement the budgets of the law enforcement agencies and prosecutors that seize and forfeit property. Advocates that succeeded in enacting similar reforms in other states called this Policing for Profit.
HF 1971 ends the conflict of interest that comes from self-funding by Minnesota's law enforcement agencies and prosecutors.
The bill requires that all forfeiture proceeds be deposited into neutral accounts. This would mean that the more than $7 million forfeited annually in Minnesota would go to victims of human trafficking, the Office of Justice programs, the public defender's office, and the state's general fund.
The good news is that Rep. Carlson's amendment likely will fail. But Rep. Carlson needs to hear from more people than just members of law enforcement.
Voters in Bloomington, Democrats, Republicans and Independents, need to tell Rep. Carlson he's wrong on this issue.
He needs to hear you tell him to stop opposing and start supporting forfeiture reform. Call or email Representative Carlson. Tell him that due process and property rights matter to you and other voters in Bloomington.
It's time he understand what constitutional protections mean and that voters value them.
Call Rep. Andrew Carlson at (651) 296-4281 or write to him at email@example.com
Tell him to support Chair Lesch's forfeiture reform!