Maine Becomes Fourth State to Repeal Civil Asset Forfeiture

A new law will require a criminal conviction before property can be seized.

by C.J. Ciaramella

Maine became the fourth state in the nation to abolish civil asset forfeiture, a practice where law enforcement can seize property if they suspect it is connected to criminal activity, even if the owner is not convicted of a crime.

After a bill passed by the state legislature, LD 1521, took effect without the governor’s signature yesterday, Maine officially repealed its civil forfeiture laws, joining Nebraska, New Mexico, and North Carolina.

Law enforcement groups say civil asset forfeiture is a crucial tool to disrupt drug trafficking and organized crime by targeting their ill-gotten proceeds. However, groups like the Institute for Justice, a libertarian-leaning public interest law firm, say civil forfeiture provides too few due process protections for property owners, who often bear the burden of proving their innocence, and creates too many perverse profit incentives for police.

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