DENVER (KDVR) — A new bill would touch tens of millions in civil asset forfeiture revenue for police, attorneys and cities.
Under Colorado law, law enforcement, district attorneys, cities and other agencies are allowed to seize property suspected of being linked to a crime. This is a civil action separate from the criminal prosecution – the agencies can take the assets whether or not the owner is found guilty of the crime.
Recently, legal movements in some U.S. cities and states have attempted to put more oversight on civil asset forfeiture or abolish it entirely. Colorado is one of those states.
HB23-1086, titled the Due Process Asset Forfeiture Act, would allow agencies to seize assets only if defendants are found guilty of a crime. Sponsored by Colorado Rep. Ken DeGraaf, an El Paso County Republican, it would also link the seizure to the criminal case rather than creating a separate civil case.
Colorado is required to track asset forfeitures under a law passed in 2017. In the last four years, agencies throughout the state have seized tens of millions through civil asset forfeiture.
All told, Colorado has seized just over $75 million in value from civil asset forfeitures.
This amount has varied by year. In 2019, only $12 million was seized. In 2020, that amount more than doubled to over $26 million.
Agencies make about 20% in proceeds from the seized assets.
Between 2019 and 2022, agencies made just over $15 million in proceeds from the seized assets. This ranges between $3.4 million and $4.3 million per year. Agencies do not keep the full value of the seized assets. Rather, they keep what they can auction or otherwise monetize.