Capitol Alert

California will restrict asset seizures by police

Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, wrote the bill limiting civil asset forfeitures..
Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, wrote the bill limiting civil asset forfeitures.. hamezcua@sacbee.com

Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed legislation limiting the civil asset forfeiture process that allows police to seize property from suspected criminals.

Senate Bill 443 will require California law enforcement agencies to obtain convictions in order to keep property taken during criminal investigations even when working jointly with federal authorities that do not share that obligation.

Current law allows police to seize cash assets only if the amount exceeds $25,000. The law Brown signed will raise that threshold to $40,000.

Brown signed the measure without comment. It was a long-in-the-works priority of state Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and civil liberties advocates, who have accused police of abusing the process to pad their budgets.

The bill, which would have originally eliminated the exception for large amounts of cash, initially failed last year under heavy lobbying from law enforcement groups, who say it is a valuable tool to undercut large criminal enterprises by cutting off their financing. A deal struck in the final weeks of session last month revived SB 443 and allowed it to sail through the Legislature with overwhelming support.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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