Under a new bill introduced by State Sen. Tommy Garrett, Nebraska could become the tenth state to require a criminal conviction as a prerequisite for most or all forfeitures. Surprisingly, the bill, LB 1106, has earned the backing of not only civil liberties groups like the ACLU of Nebraska and the Institute for Justice, but also the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office and State Patrol.
“To have libertarians, conservatives and liberals all in one office working together, it was a sight to behold,” Garrett said.
LB 1106 would generally require a criminal conviction for drug, gambling and child pornography offenses. However, the bill has several exemptions, including if the owner dies, fails to appear in court or is removed from the country. LB 1106 would lower the standard of proof from beyond a reasonable doubt to clear and convincing evidence—a less stringent, but still higher standard than what the federal government and more than 30 states use.
The bill would also provide counsel to indigent innocent owners, who did not know or consent to their property being used in criminal activity. Not going as far as reforms enacted in other states, LB 1106 would not shift the burden of proof, meaning that these third-party owners—and not the government—would still have to prove that they did not know about the suspect’s alleged crime to recover their property.