For Immediate Release
Fishman Calls for Immediate Audit of State Police Civil Asset Forfeiture.
"While this will be a constant area of focus in my tenure as Auditor, the issue is too pressing to leave till January 2019. I am calling on the current Auditor to step up and inform the public about the assets the State Police have seized without due process," Libertarian candidate for Auditor Dan Fishman said.
A report from the law firm Institute for Justice graded Massachusetts with an F based on how easily police forces can seize property from people who haven't been convicted of a crime. The report also weighed how much police agencies profited from seizures, whether or not the people were presumed guilty, and if people had to prove they were innocent to regain their property.
"In light of the recent scandals at State Police Troop E, where a few bad eggs were blatantly stealing from the people of the Commonwealth through fraudulent pay slips, it is critical to examine the State Police's ability to directly seize property from citizens. Included in this examination should be statistics detailing if there is any racial bias in the way the State Police are seizing property," Fishman elaborated.
Currently in Massachusetts, police can, with mere probable cause, seize property. And in contradiction with our judicial standard for incarceration of "innocent until proven guilty" the owner of the seized property must demonstrate their innocence to force the police to return something seized. Seized property that is not returned can be sold, with the seizing entity claiming 100% of the profits.
In an interview on WBUR Institute for Justice Attorney Dan Alban stated that as of 2014, Massachusetts police agencies were averaging $13.7 million in civil asset forfeiture when totaling what Massachusetts police seized combined with a share of what Federal agents seized in conjunction with Massachusetts police.