Law enforcement predicts seizures won’t be curbed by changes – Arizona Capitol Times – Arizona News

Law enforcement predicts seizures won’t be curbed by changes – Arizona Capitol Times – Arizona News

The Sierra Vista Police used seized assets to purchase a military-grade armored vehicle. (Photos by Agnel Philip)

(Note: This story comes from the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting through a Creative Commons license. AZCIR is a nonprofit investigative newsroom.)

Arizona law enforcement officials say landmark changes enacted this year to the state’s civil asset forfeiture program won’t do much to curb the ability of police to seize cash and property from those they suspect of breaking the law.

Those changes go into effect Aug. 9.

HB 2477, which enacted major changes to Arizona’s asset forfeiture laws, passed in April with near-unanimous support from the Legislature, despite near-universal opposition from law enforcement.

The new law increases the standard of evidence required to seize property, and strengthens reporting requirements and oversight.

But most law enforcement officials now tell AZCIR that their seizure operations would continue as usual, although some worried HB 2477 presaged future attempts to halt civil asset forfeiture entirely.

But critics say innocent property owners don’t have sufficient protections, and the program offers incentives for police to make seizures for their own agency’s financial benefit. Paul Avelar, a lawyer at the libertarian advocacy group Institute for Justice, said HB 2477 makes, “incremental, but important changes in Arizona’s forfeiture system.”

“Of those changes, none of them really affect policing,” said Avelar, who is representing an elderly couple from Washington that is suing Navajo County over its seizure practices. “What they really affect is stuff that happens after…

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