Media Contact

Janna Farley,

January 30, 2019

The ACLU of North Dakota supports House Bill 1286, a bill that would substantially overhaul civil forfeiture, one of the greatest threats to private property rights in 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.

Law enforcement’s retention of forfeiture proceeds violates two key constitutional principles: due process and separation of powers. By passing House Bill 1286, the legislature can rectify serious flaws in state law and establish significant safeguards for innocent North Dakotans.

“Law enforcement should be focused on public safety, not generating revenue. By requiring that civil forfeiture proceeds be deposited into the state school fund and away from law enforcement coffers, House Bill 1286 removes the incentive to pursue forfeiture cases for profit,” said Heather Smith, executive director for the ACLU of North Dakota. “Additionally, House Bill 1286 would strengthen due process for property owners facing civil forfeiture, raising the standard of proof from probable cause to clear and convincing evidence, allowing owners to challenge ‘unconstitutionally excessive’ forfeitures.”

About the ACLU of North Dakota

The ACLU of North Dakota monitors a wide range of issues at the legislature. Our education and lobbying efforts are aimed at informing both lawmakers and the public about the civil rights and civil liberties implications of the bills proposed by our elected officials.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota is a non-partisan organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. 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 people of North Dakota.

For up-to-date information on the bills the ACLU of North Dakota is tracking, go to