Utah police feel ‘slapped down’ as civil asset forfeiture bill (SB109) advances

A bill tightening requirements governing seizures of property by law enforcement has advanced in the Senate despite strong opposition from police officials who say it would hamstring their war against drug cartels.

Senate Bill 109 requires that all civil asset forfeiture cases be screened initially in state courts. Existing law offers a loophole for a law enforcement agency with “unrighteous motivation” to take a case to federal court, said the sponsor, Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross.

Local agencies whose seizure cases are handled in federal court can receive 80 percent of the cash or property back, sponsors said.

Under SB 109, those funds would go back not to the seizing agency, but to a grant fund operated by the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. Police departments can apply to the fund for crime-fighting grants.