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Bill Advances to Turn Over Seized Property to Police

Bill Advances to Turn Over Seized Property to Police

Posted - Feb. 17, 2004 at 7:32 a.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A bill pushed by the attorney general and prosecutors that would repeal a major provision of the Initiative B property-seizure law has been sent to the Senate floor.

Senate Judiciary Committee members voted almost unanimously Monday to send Senate Bill 175 to the floor.

Initiative B, which received a two-thirds majority approval of voters in 2000, diverted revenue from property confiscated in drug cases from law enforcement to education. SB 175 would return it to law enforcement.

Law enforcement officials and local governments say Utah has lost $4 million in forfeited funds since Initiative B passed.

Sponsors of SB175 claim the bill enhances some reforms voters had intended in approving Initiative B. Under the bill's provisions, property seizures must be handled in court, and some property would be returned to the owners until cases are resolved if the loss causes a hardship. The bill also prohibits forfeitures when those accused are acquitted.

"We've bent over backwards to protect innocent property owners," said Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan.

"Under no terms do we want innocent people to suffer," said Sen. James Evans, R-Salt Lake City, a co-sponsor of the bill. "But it is our job to amend the initiative to perfect the intent of the people. It's a delicate balancing act."

Homeowners worried about "self-funding" police or drug-addicted family members filled a committee room to protest the bill.

Carina Callaghan related her own experience of having her home taken after officers found drugs there. She said she lost her children briefly before being acquitted.

"I feel like I was abused," she said. "I just don't want this to happen to anyone else."

Only Sen. David Gladwell, R-Ogden, voted against the bill.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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