Civil asset forfeiture reform is coming to the Magnolia State after Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law House Bill 812 Monday.
The new law, authored by state Rep. Mark Baker, R-Brandon, brings several changes to the state’s civil asset forfeiture system. Those include:
– Guidelines for law enforcement agencies to report to the state the location of each forfeiture, any criminal prosecution actions taken on the property owners, the value of the property and its disposition.
– The construction and maintenance of a searchable website by the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, subject to the provision of funds by the Legislature.
– A new warrant system that would require a county or circuit judge to issue a civil seizure warrant within 72 hours, excluding weekends and holidays. The law enforcement agency would have to inform the judge on what was taken and why it was seized, and explain to the judge the probable cause to justify the seizure. If the judge doesn’t issue a seizure warrant, the property would be returned.
– A requirement that the local district attorney or the MBN prosecute all forfeitures, which would eliminate outside counsel from being hired by law enforcement agencies.