Update: The House Judiciary Commitee gave House Bill 1261 a do-not pass recommendation.
House Bill 1261 is related to civil asset forfeiture and has many interesting components.
Most notably: (a) the name of the law enforcement agency that seized the property; (b) type and description of the property seized; (c) location of seizure and whether it happened at a home, a business, or during a traffic stop; (d) if traffic stop, if on highway or interstate; (e) crime with which suspect charged; (f) disposition of case; (g) whether there was a default (person didn’t show up for the hearing) in the litigation re the seized property; (h) and disposition of seized property litigation.
This information must go on a new website the state attorney general will create and open it up to the public. All data must be kept and reported annually.
HB 1261 also exempts certain property from being seized, which would be:
Money on hand less than $50 or personal property worth $50 or less
A motor vehicle worth less than $1,000.
This is a great bill in terms of transparency, however it could go further to require that law enforcement can only search and seize only after conviction. Right now, people are often never charged or convicted of a crime but their property is seized and forfeited anyway. Clearly, this is wrong and should change.
House Bill 1261 can help shed light on the practice of civil asset forfeiture, and protect the property of North Dakotans in certain low-amount instances. We urge a do pass.