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DFPH: ‘Veto Ensures Continuation of One of US’s Worst Forfeiture Laws’

July 10, 2019, 9:52 AM HST (Updated July 10, 2019, 9:52 AM)
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Hawai‘i Gov. David Ige vetoed HB748 on July 9, 2019. The measure would have reformed the controversial civil asset forfeiture program, a press release from the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaiʻi (DFPH) said.

Despite concerted push back from the community, media and the Legislature, the self-interested lobbying of law enforcement prevailed over justice, according to the press release.

Civil asset forfeiture allows law enforcement to seize and sell a person’s assets even if there is no charge or conviction for the alleged crime. This allows police… to keep the money and pad their budgets outside the appropriations process, the press release stated.

Hawai‘i now fails to join at least 18 states that have strengthened due process in requiring that an actual criminal conviction be obtained before some or all forfeitures can be completed.

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A State Auditor’s report last year revealed all manner of problems with the forfeiture program that the governor clearly absorbed in deciding against a veto, the press release said. Those issues relate to a absence of administrative rules after 30 years, a general lack of oversight and a shirking of state law regarding how to use forfeiture proceeds.

The DFPH says these findings and the fundamental design flaws of this borderline unconstitutional program prompted the Legislature to revisit the issue in 2019 and pass this common-sense law that the governor has now vetoed.

DPFH Board President Nikos Leverenz said: “Gov. Ige’s veto shows a troubling disregard of the findings of State Auditor and the reasoned judgement of the Legislature. Over the past 30 years, due process of law has been turned on its head to facilitate revenue streams that stand outside of any meaningful oversight. This veto comes at a time when the conduct and character of those charged with enforcing state laws have been called into serious question by federal authorities. Hawai‘i deserves leadership that’s willing to look at the facts before it, admit mistakes that have been made and then take necessary corrective measures. Today’s action by the governor ensures that Hawai‘i will continue to have one of the worst asset forfeiture laws in the nation. The Legislature should revisit reform next year.”

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