State Rep. Wendell Willard, the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, announced last week that he pre-filed legislation to reform Georgia’s civil forfeiture laws. The measure will modify the power of law enforcement to seize cash, cars, home and other property on the suspicion the property was involved in criminal activity, a press statement said.
Willard is also City Attorney for Sandy Springs.
“Civil forfeiture laws represent one of the most serious assaults on private property rights in the nation today,” said Rep. Willard. “This bill will protect due process, transparency and create better accountability.”
In a recent Institute for Justice report, Georgia was given a “D-” for its civil forfeiture laws and practices, with only four other state receiving similar low grades.
As a result, Willard formed a Forfeiture Rewrite Work Group to review Georgia’s current forfeiture law, the statement said.
This group met over the last two years to create legislation that would clarify and streamline Georgia’s forfeiture process by standardizing the state’s forfeiture provisions and consolidating its forfeiture laws into one primary code section.
The Forfeiture Rewrite Work Group included a representative from the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council, Attorney’s Generals office and Administrative Office of the Courts. With the help of Legislative Counsel, the work group drafted a new Uniform Civil Forfeiture Procedure Act for approval by the General Assembly.
The Act is taken from the drug forfeiture statute that has guided the vast majority of forfeitures in this state for the last 20 years.
Willard said, “…The bill ensures that those individuals proven guilty of a crime do not keep the fruits of their crime. Therefore, it strikes a much needed balance in forfeiture law between individual property rights and public safety."