Target: Charles Schneider, Iowa State Senator
Goal: Stop the seizure of property from suspects without proof of guilt.
A recent study alleges that Iowa law enforcement agencies have been wrongfully possessing vehicles, cash, and other types of private property from thousands of citizens. According to the study, this property was acquired despite a lack of proof that it was obtained as a result of a crime.
Iowa law enforcement officials are taking property from at least 1,000 people a year, a notable increase from the 1980s when local and state bureaus had fewer than a few dozen cases per year. In most cases, no criminal charges were ever filed against the person who lost property, yet the agencies in question have taken advantage of relaxed civil forfeiture laws to funnel millions of dollars into their budgets.
Many activists and lawmakers claim that Iowa’s forfeiture laws are unfair. The Comprehensive Forfeiture Act was designed to stop drug trafficking, but the bill was expanded in 1986 to include just about every type of criminal activity. For example since 1985, Polk County in Iowa has used seized cash and vehicles to add $18 million to the budgets of law enforcement agencies.
Iowa’s current laws are unjust and predatory, but fortunately change may be on the horizon. A state Senate bill is in the works that would only allow forfeiture when a case results in a conviction. Sign the petition below to demand that this bill passes.
Dear Senator Schneider,
I am writing to express my outrage about a recent report detailing the rampant seizure of personal property in Iowa. According to this study, Iowa law enforcement officials seize assets from at least 1,000 people on an annual basis, often without proof that the assets in question were used in criminal activity. Furthermore, many cases do not result in the filing of criminal charges, yet the suspects involved rarely see their lost property returned.
As they currently stand, Iowa’s forfeiture laws are outdated and allow for easy abuse. Police departments should not be able to simply steal an innocent citizen’s belongings. I urge you to do everything in your power to enact new legislation that only allows this kind of seizure to occur when the case results in a criminal conviction.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Conollyb