Missouri state legislators are looking into putting an end to state-sponsored theft of private property by closing a loophole that allows state officials to go to the feds for the shares of profits taken in asset forfeiture cases.
The loophole known as “Equitable Sharing” works by giving state prosecutors the ability to bypass asset forfeiture laws that keep state police from confiscating property from suspects without a conviction. This happens when prosecutors throw the cases to the feds, who then walk in, take said property, and share the “profits” with the state’s law enforcement agency.
But with House Bill 1501, this procedure might be partially outlawed.
According to The Tenth Amendment Center, the piece of legislation would ensure Missouri law enforcement agencies and prosecutors may not participate in any agreement involving the federal government in which assets are seized and then shared.
Still, the bill isn’t perfect as it still allows state officials to profit from asset forfeiture if the case involves $100,000 in cash. However, HB 1501 could help to bring an end to the abuses related to civil asset forfeiture at least in the state of Missouri simply by making requirements regarding the practice harder to go around.
While Missouri has some of the best, most restrictive forfeiture laws in the country, this addition could inspire other states to stand up to the federal government by not letting the feds use state resources to seize private property from its residents without a proper conviction.
The first state to close the Equitable Sharing loophole was California in 2016. Missouri is now attempting to join the Golden State, while others are still ages behind, allowing government-sponsored theft to prevail.
But while this is definitely a step in the right direction, it’s important to note that this law originated with prohibition, being later reintroduced as part of the broad and ineffective drug war.
By justifying the seizure (read confiscation) of property based solely on the possibility that an individual is involved in the drug trade, officials have been stealing property for decades without ever first convicting the property owners, in a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. So if we are to be honest about the practice, its roots, and its immorality, we must first look at prohibition as a whole as the very reason why the government has believed for so long that it has any claim over the citizens’ private property.