By Senators Orr, Smitherman, Beasley, Dunn, Sanford, Ward and Whatley
Relating to civil forfeitures; to require the Criminal Justice Information Center Commission to collect and analyze data relating to forfeiture activities by state and local criminal justice agencies; to require the commission to prepare and submit an annual report containing specified information concerning forfeitures in the state; and to provide requirements regarding the accounting of funds derived from civil forfeiture.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA:
Section 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the Forfeiture Database and Reporting Act.
Section 2. The Legislature finds and declares the following:
(1) Public safety is preserved by effective deterrence of criminal activity. One invaluable deterrent is the forfeiture of the proceeds of criminal activity and the property used to facilitate criminal activity.
(2) Respect for the property rights of law-abiding citizens is important to the state and the forfeiture process must preserve those rights.
(3) To maintain the public's trust in law enforcement, the government's power to seize and forfeit private property must be exercised with transparency.
(4) While current state civil asset forfeiture procedures are filed and disposed of in a public manner, no state central repository currently exists to provide a statewide database that is easily accessible to policymakers and the public.
(5) The effectiveness and fairness of the forfeiture process should be evaluated on a regular basis to maintain the highest standards for the state's law enforcement agencies.
Section 3. (a) Through the uniform crime reporting system operated by the Alabama State Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), the commission shall provide for the collection and analysis of data relating to forfeiture activities by state, county, and municipal criminal justice agencies as defined by Section 41-9-590, within the state, to include the forfeiture of criminal proceeds, instrumentalities, and abandoned property upon the filing of a civil asset forfeiture action pursuant to state law or, if an agreement for a forfeiture action has been initiated, with the federal government. The commission shall modify its uniform crime report to include data related to forfeiture activity.
(b) The modification to include data related to forfeiture activity in the crime reporting system shall be implemented no later than January 1, 2019, and shall be subject to the commission's regulatory authority.
(c) The information collected pursuant to subsection (a) shall include, but not be limited to, all of the following:
(1) The name of the law enforcement agency or multijurisdictional task force that seized the property.
(2) The date of the seizure.
(3) The type of property seized. If the property is other than currency, a description of the property seized, including make, model, year, or serial or other unique identification number.
(4) The location of the seizure.
(5) The value of any currency seized.
(6) The type of underlying criminal offense that led to the seizure, including whether the offense is under state or federal law, if applicable.
(7) Any crime for which the suspect was charged, prior to final civil judgment, including whether the crime charged is under state or federal law, if applicable.
(8) The criminal case number and court in which the case was filed, if applicable.
(9) The disposition of the defendant's criminal case, if applicable.
(10) If forfeiture is sought under federal law, whether it is the result of a joint investigation or adoption.
(11) The forfeiture case number and court in which the case was filed, if available.
(12) Whether a claim or counterclaim was filed by the suspect or a third party, if applicable.
(13) The date of the forfeiture order.
(14) Whether there was a forfeiture settlement agreement.
(15) The property disposition.
(16) The date of the property disposition.
(17) The value of the currency forfeited under state law and description of any non-currency forfeited by order of the state court.
(d) Each criminal justice agency that does not receive any forfeitures in a calendar year pursuant to the reporting requirements of this section shall notify ALEA by January 31 of the immediately following calendar year.
Section 4. (a) A public report shall be annually prepared by the commission, through the Alabama State Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), and provided to the Governor, President Pro Tempore of the Senate, and Speaker of the House of Representatives. The report shall summarize the information received pursuant to subsection (a) of Section 5 and shall provide underlying information set forth in subsection (b) Section 5, by forfeiture action, in a manner that does not disclose the identity of any individual. The initial annual report shall be provided to the Governor, President Pro Tempore of the Senate, and Speaker of the House of Representatives no later than the fifth legislative day of the 2020 Legislative Regular Session.
(b) The Alabama State Law Enforcement Agency, acting in conjunction with the commission, shall evaluate the cost and feasibility of developing and maintaining a public database regarding forfeiture-related activity. A published report of this evaluation of the cost and feasibility shall be provided to the Legislature and made public no later than April 1, 2019, with an estimate of costs involved, if available. The report may be supplemented at later dates at the discretion of ALEA, and any subsequent reporting regarding cost and feasibility shall be made public.
Section 5. (a) The summary information contained in the annual report shall include, but not be limited to, cumulative statewide annual data as well as by criminal justice agencies regarding all of the following:
(1) Criminal justice agencies seizing property for forfeiture.
(2) Types of property seized.
(3) Places of seizure, whether homes, businesses, or locations of traffic stops.
(4) Value of currency seized.
(5) The alleged criminal offense that led to the seizure, including whether the offense was under state or federal law.
(6) Outcomes of criminal cases related to seizure, if applicable.
(7) Forfeitures sought under federal law that were the result of joint investigations or adoptions, if known.
(8) Total number of claims or counterclaims filed by property owners or third parties.
(9) Forfeiture settlement orders.
(10) Property dispositions.
(11) Cumulative value of currency under state law or, if forfeited under federal law, the cumulative proceeds received from the federal government.
(b) The portion of the report, by forfeiture action, shall provide non-identifiable data sufficient to determine the value of currency forfeited, a generic description of non-currency items, along with an estimated value at the time of the seizure, whether a claim or counterclaim was filed by the suspect or a third party, and the disposition of any criminal charges brought against the person from whom the property was seized.
Section 6. (a) Civil asset forfeiture funds or monies shall be maintained consistent with any restrictions set out in state forfeiture laws.
(b) All civil asset forfeiture funds or monies derived from the liquidation of civil asset forfeiture funds shall be kept on a separate line item in the budget of any law enforcement agency that may be awarded the asset funds.
(c) Any expenditure of any monies by a law enforcement agency from an award of a civil asset forfeiture may only be expended from a line item pursuant to subsection (b).
(d) All civil asset forfeiture funds or monies derived from the liquidation of civil asset forfeiture funds shall only be deposited into an account that is publicly audited as other public funds pursuant to state law.
(e) Any expenditure of funds subject to this section shall be reported annually to the Alabama State Law Enforcement Agency for inclusion within the report to the Legislature that is required under Section 4. For purposes of the annual report, expenditures shall be reconciled to each law enforcement agency that consumed or expended the funds or that were expended on its behalf.
Section 7. The commission shall discharge its duties of collecting and reporting data under this act in a manner that maintains the security and confidentiality of individuals whose data is collected under this act. Any data collected under this act shall not identify an individual in any public database by name, specific address, or any other manner that would disclose the identity of the individual.
Section 8. (a) If the Alabama State Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) or the commission is not able to fully implement the provisions of this act by April 1, 2019, the Secretary of ALEA shall send notice to the Governor, President Pro Tempore of the Senate, and Speaker of the House of Representatives that explains the reason for the delay.
(b) The Alabama State Law Enforcement Agency shall file any reports required by this act even if this act has not been fully implemented. The report shall also state which provisions of this act have not been implemented in full.
(c) Any data collected in the calendar year 2019 shall be included within the initial report in 2020, pursuant to Section 3 and Section 4.
Section 9. Notwithstanding any state forfeiture law to the contrary, property may only be forfeited by a circuit civil court and only if the state proves by clear and convincing evidence that the property subject to forfeiture was used in, intended to be used in, or derived from, a felony offense.
Section 10. This act shall become effective January 1, 2019, following its passage and approval by the Governor, or its otherwise becoming law.