Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Action Alert: Asset Forfeiture

Action Alert – Oppose HB 1238 (civil forfeiture)

Scheduled for hearing before House Judiciary Committee – Thurs 3/5pm at 1:30pm

Please forward this action alert to any of your friends and family that value due process and property rights. The Colorado Springs Gazette published an editorial in opposition to HB 1238. To read it, click here: http://www.gazette.com/opinion/bill_49055___article.html/colorado_house.html

HB 1238 is opposed by a diverse, bi-partisan coalition including:

Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, Independence Institute, ACLU, Colorado Union of Taxpayers, Colorado Criminal Defense Bar Association, Colorado Progressive Coalition, Pikes Peak Justice & Peace Commission, The Center for Justice, Peace & Environment, SAFER Colorado, Pendulum Foundation, Rocky Mountain Peace & Justice Center, Metro Community Church of the Rockies, Drug Policy Alliance, Colorado Libertarian Party, Empowerment Program, Alexandria Temple, National Lawyer’s Guild-Colorado, Law Offices of Phil Cherner, Sensible Colorado, Colorado CURE, Cynergetics Institute, Kilmer, Lane and Newman, Youth Transformation, Charities House Ministries, Montview Presbyterian-Peace & Justice Taskforce, New Foundations Nonviolence Center, Left Hand Book Collective, Turnabout, Surrounded by Recovery

What is “civil forfeiture”

Civil forfeiture is used by law enforcement to seize personal property (real estate, cash, jewelry, etc.) they believe was used during the commission of a criminal offense or is proceeds from criminal activity. When property is seized, prosecutors then file a civil forfeiture action against the property and, if the prosecution prevails, the property owner loses all all right, title and interest in the property.

Current forfeiture law requires that:

· In most cases, a person must be convicted of a criminal offense before their property (cash, real estate, cars, etc.) can be forfeited for being involved in or proceeds of criminal activity.

· Law enforcement and prosecutors are not allowed to directly keep proceeds from forfeitures but are reimbursed for actual expenses related to the seizure and forfeiture. Once lienholders, innocent co-owners and victims are compensated, any remaining balance is divided 50% to fund substance abuse treatment at the local level and 50% to the county commissioners/city council (depending on whether police or sheriff did the seizure) to fund “public safety”.

· Law enforcement is required to submit an annual forfeiture report to Dept of Local Affairs.

These changes came about pursuant to the passage of HB 02-1404 in the 2002 legislative session. HB 02-1404 was sponsored by (then) Representative Shawn Mitchell (R-Broomfield) and (then) Senator Bill Thiebaut (D-Pueblo). HB 1404 was a bi-partisan effort that passed in the House on a 51-11 vote and passed the Senate on a 23-10 vote. HB 1404 also received editorial board support from the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, Grand Junction Sentinel, Colorado Springs Gazette, and Durango Herald.


1. Erodes reasonable protections for property owners by

a. repealing the requirement that someone be convicted of a criminal offense before their property can be forfeited. (in a civil forfeiture action, a property owner does not have 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination nor the right to counsel)

b. allowing for forfeiture even if the owner didn’t know that the property was used in violation of the law under the theory that he/she “reasonably should have known.”

c. repealing the requirement that the plaintiff prove that the property being forfeited was instrumental in the commission of an offense.

2. Reintroduces the profit motive to law enforcement and no longer requires forfeiture proceeds to be allocated through an accountable budgeting entity (like City Council or County Commissions) but rather allows law enforcement and prosecutors to keep a majority of the proceeds directly.

3. Removes any transparency and accountability by repealing all forfeiture reporting requirements and repeals the prohibition on transfer of forfeiture cases out of state court when local or state law enforcement were the seizing agency, with limited exceptions.


Current law ensures that forfeiture actions are fair and that property owners have due process without undermining law enforcement’s ability to use forfeiture as a legitimate tool. Current law also brings the revenue generated from asset forfeiture into an appropriate budget process and provides accountability while removing any appearance of impropriety. HB 09-1238 repeals these fundamental principals of fairness and due process. It also creates an unacceptable profit motive for law enforcement.

Please contact the following House Judiciary Committee members and urge them to vote NO on HB 1238. Please contact them before the hearing on Thursday 3/5.

House Judiciary Committee Members:

Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder), chairman – 303-866-2578, claire.levy.house@state.co.us

Rep. Beth McCann (D-Denver), vice-chairman – 303-966-2959, ehmccann@comcast.net

Rep. Dennis Apuan (D-El Paso), 303-866-3069, repdennisapuan@gmail.com

Rep. Lois Court (D-Denver), 303-866-2967, loiscourt@msn.com

Rep. Bob Gardner (R-El Paso), 303-866-2191, bob.gardner.house@state.co.us

Rep. Steve King (R-Delta), 303-866-3068, steve.king.house@state.co.us

Rep. Joe Miklosi (D-Denver), 303-866-2910, joe@joemiklosi.com

Rep. Sal Pace (D-Pueblo), 303-966-2968, sal_pace@hotmail.com

Rep. Ellen Roberts (R-Archuleta), 303-866-2914, ellen.roberts.house@state.co.us

Rep. Su Ryden (D-Arapahoe), 303-866-2942, su@suryden.com

Rep. Mark Waller (R-El Paso), 303-866-5525, mark.waller.house@state.co.us