Bray civil forfeiture bill passes Senate committee
A bill reforming Indiana's civil forfeiture laws has passed out of the Senate Committee on Judiciary by a vote of 7-0, District 37 State Sen. Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) reported Wednesday.
Authored by Sen. Bray, who represents all of the southern half of Putnam County as far north as the south side of Washington Street in Greencastle, Senate Bill 99 establishes a probable cause requirement for all forfeiture cases and sets up a process for innocent property owners to get their property back if it was seized while in another person's possession.
"Civil forfeiture is an important tool for fighting crime as it gives law enforcement officers the power to seize the property of drug dealers and gangs," Bray said. "SB 99 balances the rights of our law enforcement officers with a person's right to their property. By establishing these guidelines and speeding up the court process, our civil forfeiture process will benefit both law enforcement and property owners."
SB 99 now moves to the full Senate for further consideration.
The bill would require a prosecuting attorney to file a probable cause affidavit not later than seven days after property is seized, and allows for the return of the property to the owner if the court does not find probable cause.
The legislation also makes the time limit for filing a forfeiture action 21 days, if the owner has filed a written demand for return of the property, or 90 days, if the owner has not filed a written demand for its return.
SB 99 also provides that an owner whose property is returned is not liable for the costs of storage, transportation or maintenance.
At last Saturday's Legislative Update session in Greencastle, Sen. Bray addressed the bill, noting that currently there is "little due process" for the property owner, which can mean that it might be 180 days before an owner can do anything about recovering an impounded vehicle.
"And sometimes at the end of 180 days," Sen. Bray said, "the car isn't worth the impound fees."