Civil Asset Forfeiture Reforms Become Law in Ohio

Jan 04, 2017

We’re not saying it makes up for the cringe-worthy Fiesta Bowl loss, but we ARE saying we are thrilled about this New Year’s victory for property rights in the Buckeye State!

Earlier today, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed into law sweeping reforms to Ohio’s civil asset forfeiture process. This reform is most definitely an idea whose time had come. Civil asset forfeiture laws—believe it or not—had previously allowed the government to take private property without convicting or even charging the property owner of a crime. Yes, you read that right.

It was outrageous, and your Buckeye Institute had been leading the charge to get this situation fixed.

A cursory review of the Constitution and your basic sense of justice may tell you that a person ought to need to be convicted of a crime to be punished by the government and have his/her property forfeited. Sadly, that was not the case in Ohio—until now.

This new legislation requires a conviction in most cases before government can take ownership of a person’s property—a policy that Buckeye has long championed.

Daniel Dew, Buckeye’s criminal justice fellow, said, “The Buckeye Institute applauds Governor Kasich, and heartily congratulates legislators including Rep. Rob McColley, Rep. Tom Brinkman, Senator Kris Jordan, Senator Larry Obhof, Senator Bill Coley, Senator Bill Seitz, and Senator Cecil Thomas who fought for this sorely-needed reform to our previously unacceptable civil asset forfeiture procedures in Ohio.”

Representative Rob McColley, the primary sponsor, complimented our work on this issue in saying, “The Buckeye Institute provided tremendous policy expertise to those of us in the legislature fighting to reform civil asset forfeiture and defend the property rights of all Ohioans. Buckeye’s good work and leadership on criminal justice reforms more broadly—and on civil asset forfeiture specifically--help to ensure that Ohio is a leader in protecting our citizens.”

Our explanatory policy brief on civil asset forfeiture can be found here. Our interested party testimony that was offered in the Senate and House can be found here and here, respectively. Op-eds published by our policy experts on the issue are available for your review here and here.

Groups spanning the spectrum philosophically from the left to the right including the Coalition for Public Safety, the ACLU of Ohio, Faith & Freedom Coalition, and U.S. Justice Action Network worked together with us to advance this necessary policy change that benefits all Ohioans. FreedomWorks ran a grassroots campaign as well, for which we are grateful.

If you need help understanding the ins and outs of this issue or, worse, explaining it to your big government friends, here is an oversimplified yet amusing and informative explanation of civil asset forfeiture. (Fair warning: there is some naughty language, as the video clip is from an HBO television show.)