A bill that would reform Idaho’s civil asset forfeiture regarding drug crimes is moving through the statehouse.
House Bill 202 passed the house 58 to 10 with support from both republicans and democrats.
Rep. Ilana Rubel, a democrat from Boise, sponsored the bill with Rep. Steven Harris, a republican from Meridian. The legislation is intended to set a new standard for when law enforcement is seizing property to make sure they are in fact taking something that is related to a drug crime.
"The previous standard was anything in proximity to drugs. So they could be taking property that really has nothing to do with drugs and that you own fair and square,” Rubel said.
For example, if police are going to confiscate your car, it has to be because they have reason to believe you are trafficking drugs, not just because they find a joint in your car.
The bill also makes it clear that having large amounts of cash without any evidence of a drug crime, is not grounds to take that cash.
"Just having cash itself is not a crime," Rubel said.
She said the point of this is to make sure drug dealers are not keeping ill-gotten gains while protecting the rights of Idahoans.
Rubel also said this legislation isn’t meant to attack law enforcement.
"We love our law enforcement here,” she said. “I don't mean to impugn law enforcement in any way, shape or form, and I think the vast majority of them, and maybe all of them, are doing exactly what they should be. But the statute would certainly allow quite a bit of abuse as written right now and we think we should clean up our laws and not have them be drafted in a way that allows vast abuse."
This legislation did have some opposition from law enforcement. In a committee hearing on the issue, the Sheriff’s Association voices its concerns saying this favors drug traffickers and that police could lose key evidence in investigations if this were to become law.
Now that the bill passed the House, it moves on to the Senate.