A new poll of Utah voters shows overwhelming opposition to current law that allows police to seize, and prosecutors to forfeit, property from individuals not charged with—let alone convicted of—a crime.
The poll, commissioned by Drug Policy Action and conducted by Public Policy Polling last week, surveyed 565 voters. 77% of respondents indicated that they were unaware of civil asset forfeiture law. When provided a brief summary, 86% indicated that, “Police should not be able to seize and permanently take away property from people who have not been charged with a crime.”
“We often discuss civil asset forfeiture with groups of Utahns around the state,” said Connor Boyack, president of Libertas Institute. “Without fail, many in the audience are astounded to learn that the government is able to legally steal property from people not charged with any crime. It violates our sense of justice and due process. This poll affirms that most Utahns feel the same way, and that reform is needed to bring state law into alignment with what voters believe.”
House Bill 22, sponsored by Representative Brian Greene in the 2016 general session, proposed to require a criminal charge as a basis of forfeiting a person’s property. Those found innocent of the related criminal charge would have their property returned. The bill passed the House of Representatives 56-17 but was tabled in committee after organized opposition by law enforcement.
National reform is also needed, and 66% of respondents indicated in the poll that they would be more likely to support a presidential candidate who took the position that the government should not be able to take property from a person who has not been convicted of a crime.
“The notion that police officers can take cash or other property from people never charged with a crime doesn’t sit well with Utah voters,” said Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs for Drug Policy Action. “Voters want action on civil asset forfeiture and presidential candidates would be wise to address the issue,” said Smith.