Lawrence is also worried lawmakers may restrict civil asset forfeiture. This gives law enforcement the ability to seize cash, cars and other property they think are connected with criminal activity, even if they can’t win a criminal conviction against the property’s owner in court.
Civil libertarians say that goes too far. When the legislature last met, conservative and liberal lawmakers introduced legislation to limit and even ban the practice, though none of the bills passed. One proponent of curtailing the practice was Tarrant County’s Konni Burton, who lost her senate seat in last November’s election. This year, it’s unclear whether a similar push will be successful.
Lawrence says it’s a useful tool to battle organized crime, and should be left intact.
“It’s a way of taking a civil action against criminals,” Lawrence says. “Even though we can’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they committed a crime, we can prove with a preponderance of the evidence that they are involved in a criminal conspiracy.”