Legislative Update: Week #2
Civil Asset Forfeiture
This year, H.B.22, sponsored by Rep. Brian Greene, is looking to reform Utah’s civil asset forfeiture law by making it more difficult for assets to be seized unjustly. The bill would:
- Require that seized property be the direct result of the criminal activity charged, and a nexus established between the two
- Redirect seized assets into the education fund, from the CCJJ, Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, where it now goes
- Protect innocent property owners whose property was used in the commission of a crime but who didn’t give permission for such use and didn’t solicit another person to engage in the criminal activity
- Remove the cap on attorney’s fees that created a disincentive for property owners to seek the return of their property. This would allow full compensation for those fees if the action is successful.
Questions surrounding the use of body cameras by law enforcement officers have recently made headlines around the country, leading to debates regarding protection of privacy, standards for use and safety — for citizens as well as officers. This session there are two bills to deal with the issue in distinctly different ways:
Rep. Dan McCay is currently working on legislation that would establish consistent, state-mandated guidelines for all law enforcement agencies that use body cameras. It would set rules regarding when to turn on, when to turn off, how to display the camera and give notice of its use.
Another bill, S.B.94 by Sen. Daniel Thatcher, would allow for POST, Peace Officer Standards and Training Division, to establish minimum standards that would govern the use of the cameras and the storage and retention of footage. Rather than encoding specific guidelines in statute, POST would be responsible for instituting standards, and would change them as needed. Any law enforcement agencies using body cameras would be required to comply with those minimum standards.
Both bills would make the audio and video recordings private but McCay’s version explicitly prohibits personal use.