Alabama’s new general forfeiture law fights economics of crime

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT)-- Until last legislative session, Alabama was one of the few states in this region without what Madison County Assistant District Attorney Jeannie Cole calls "a mechanism to take away profits of crime."

She, along with Senator Arthur Orr and a team of other advocates, fought for a bill to change that.

"Say you stole from an individual or from a store and you took merchandise and sold it, converted it into cash," she said. "If you were arrested for that offense, we couldn't take the proceeds from the criminal. Now we can."

The Alabama Comprehensive Criminal Proceeds Forfeiture Act passed last session, and it allows the state to seize more unlawful property than just what was previously included in forfeiture law: drugs, child pornography, weapons, and illegal gambling proceeds.

Now, Alabama authorities can take any instruments used to commit a felony (like cars, money counters, and computers) along with any monetary profits earned from the commission of criminal acts.

Cole says this changes the game, widening what investigators can do to crack down, while attacking crime from an economic standpoint.

"It's a different way to investigate a case by looking at what the motivation is to commit that crime. And the motivation is often money," said Cole.

The law also provides for innocent victims, so property won't be taken if someone else used it for illegal purposes without your consent.

Courts determine what happens to seized property that is not returned to an owner, including paying off court costs, dividing it between law enforcement agencies, and paying restitution to victims.


  • Red

    This KIND of law is the single biggest factor behind the corruption of law enforcement nationwide. To present this story as though we’ve done something good here, is frightening. This type of law was first enacted by Reagan to fight the failed War on Drugs, and it has been cited thousands of times with respect to corruption. And it’s easy to see how such a thing can happen. So when grandma is caught growing a scrawny marijuana plant in her backyard, the “authorities” can swoop in and bust her and take her car, her trailer, her cash… everything she has… they just claim that it was all ill-gotten gains, and courts rubber-stamp such actions. If you have the means after being robbed to defend yourself you might succeed in proving that everything you own wasn’t the result of your criminal enterprise, but it won’t be easy. The way the federal forfeiture laws work, you must bring suit against the government to recover your belongings. Attacking crime from an “economic standpoint…?” Just more War on Americans here!

    • James Stone

      I agree completely Red. This type of law is used to justify any and all action taken against a person(s) for any reason without being accused, tried or convicted of a crime and without any representation or independent oversight. This law is just another nail in the coffin of our (in)justice system. All you have to do is look up civil or asset forfeiture abuse and you will see how the law has gone completely off track. I am all for punishing CRIMINALS that have been proven to be criminals in court. Forfeiture laws are about policing for profit, not justice.

  • Red

    “Say you stole from an individual…” ??? That’s actually not what Madison County Assistant District Attorney Jeannie Cole said. I just watched the video. What she said was “stoled”.

  • Michael

    I guess stealing from people you deem unworthy of such property is ok if you’re the police/government. The sad thing is that even if the arrested person is found not guilty or even has the charges dropped, it’s still nearly impossible to get their wrongfully taken property and cash back.

    Arthur Orr, I’ve had it with you. You’ve lost my vote. Just another big government Republican.

    • Michael

      It’s taken BEFORE the trial, when a person is still innocent until proven guilty. Read my second sentence above.

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