Media Contact

Janna Farley,

April 26, 2019

The ACLU of North Dakota no longer supports House Bill 1286, legislation that deals with civil forfeiture, one of the greatest threats to private property rights in North Dakota.

Originally, House Bill 1286 would have substantially overhauled civil forfeiture, requiring convictions for suspects’ property to be forfeited as well as reporting from law enforcement on seizures and forfeitures.

But conference committee amendments outlining further details in reporting from courts and eliminating the requirement of conviction have essentially gutted the legislation, removing all protections of civil forfeiture the bill was supposed to include.

“North Dakota’s current civil forfeiture law violates two key constitutional principles: due process and separation of powers. Revisions to the House Bill 1286 no longer include significant safeguards for innocent North Dakotans,” said Heather Smith, executive director of the ACLU of North Dakota. “While civil forfeiture historically was focused on legitimate public safety purposes of stopping drug kingpins and criminal enterprises, today, through civil forfeiture, law enforcement agencies can confiscate property suspected of involvement in criminal activity. Unfortunately, that means ordinary citizens who have never been convicted of a crime are becoming ensnared in this system that is unfairly stacked in favor of the government.”

The bill now goes to the Senate, which may vote on the bill later today.

About the ACLU of North Dakota

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of North Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes South Dakota and Wyoming. The team in North Dakota is supported by staff in those states.

The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people.  In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and the LGBT communities. The ACLU of North Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of North Dakota.