A ‘historic event’: Thanking TAKEN Newspaper 2-Year Investigation series, 71 South Carolina legislators unveil bipartisan push to reform civil forfeiture

As a morning Statehouse crowd milled about, some visitors waiting for a tour, lobbyists waiting to nudge legislators toward their clients’ direction, Rep. Alan Clemmons stepped to a podium set up in the middle of the second-floor lobby.

He called this a historic event, a large bipartisan group of legislators, several who had worked in the legal system, pledging support as co-sponsors to reform a practice that until recently was little understood or even known to many South Carolina residents.

As he opened his remarks to announce a bill to reform civil asset forfeiture in South Carolina — a practice which allows law enforcement to seize property from residents, sometimes without charging or convicting them of a crime, and then profit from the proceeds to boost budgets and fight crime — he said the group stands with law enforcement, crime shouldn’t pay, and law enforcement should have the ability to seize property they believe to be illegally obtained.

“We, however, also stand with the presumption of innocent until proven guilty,” said Clemmons, R-Myrtle Beach. “We also stand for the presumption of the sanctity of property rights.”