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House: amend civil forfeiture

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On Thursday, January 7 the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted to amend civil forfeiture laws in New Hampshire.

Under the current civil forfeiture law, police may seize property they believe to be associated with criminal activity, whether or not a person is found guilty of a crime. After approval from a court, any profit from seized property is shared between the state and the local police department that found the property.

HB 636, the bill passed on Thursday, requires a criminal conviction before the state can profit from any seized property. HB 636 also eliminates profit sharing with local police departments. 

Writing on behalf of the committee that first reviewed the bill, Rep. Paul Berch said, “Although the sums are very small ($50-60,000 overall and less than half of that to all local police departments combined), it was felt that it was important for the public to perceive and believe that the police solely act on the needs of law enforcement and not for purposes of their own revenue enhancement.” 

Opponents of the bill argued that the revenue from civil forfeiture provides important support for local police departments.

“Each of our communities has unique needs to combat drug addiction,” wrote Rep. Timothy Horrigan. “[The current civil forfeiture law] would allow the best use of the funds in meeting the needs specific community needs [sic].” 

The House Finance Committee will review HB 636 before it returns to the House floor for a final vote.

Last year the LFDA asked our Facebook community about civil forfeiture, and the majority supported a new law.  Click here to read the results of that discussion.

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