Spurred by TAKEN series, South Carolina legislators seek to reform civil forfeiture

A bipartisan group of legislators, including several from Greenville, plans to sponsor a bill that would drastically reform South Carolina’s civil asset forfeiture law.

Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Horry, said he plans to file a bill within the next week that would essentially require a criminal conviction before the state can seek forfeiture of a person’s cash or property.

The renewed effort to reform the state’s forfeiture law comes in response to the TAKEN investigation by The Greenville News and Anderson Independent Mail that has shed light on the ability of police to seize cash from people regardless of whether criminal charges have been filed or a conviction has been obtained, Clemmons said.

The TAKEN team spent two years documenting every civil asset forfeiture case in the state from 2014-2016 — more than 3,200 cases involving more than 4,000 people — to show police had seized more than $17 million from people. Most of that cash ends up back in the hands of police, which reform advocates say creates an incentive for police to seek profit from forfeiture, the investigation found.