Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Property Seizure Without Criminal Conviction: What Country Do We Live In?

Rep. Allen Freeman (R-Macon) wants law enforcement officers to be able to seize the vehicle of anyone arrested for a sex crime against a child under the age of 14. You are probably already applauding. So was I, for a minute. Throw the bums in jail, take all their toys, protect our children at all cost. Right? Look closer. This amendment to the already strengthened sex offender legislation passed this year would allow seizure for those merely arrested, not convicted, of one of these horrible crimes. Remember that this is a crime where there is seldom any physical evidence, and where the simple allegation can result in arrest, and especially in the context of domestic disputes, this is an allegation that is all too easy to make. It's easy to think that innocent until proven guilty is not all that important, until it's your son or your husband who is accused of such a crime.

Was it too much to ask that Freeman propose something that would truly address the preventing sexual abuse of children? Like more funds to train and hire special investigators? Or legislation to support and fund special crimes against children units in every district attorney's office? Or more prevention education in our schools?

But, I'll tell you what. I could probably support Freeman's legislation, but I just don't think it goes far enough. Shouldn't we also include your average, run of the mill rapist? How about murderers? Could we also find a way to include adulterers? And we wouldn't have to prove it: just the accusation would do.

Here's the article from The Macon Telegraph:
Bill would seize cars of accused child molesters (Macon Telegraph)

By Mike BillipsTELEGRAPH STAFF WRITER

ATLANTA - A Macon lawmaker wants to allow law enforcement officers to seize the cars of anyone arrested for a sex crime against a victim younger than 14.
The civil forfeiture penalty is an add-on to the harsher punishment included in a sex crime bill passed this session, said the sponsor, Rep. Allen Freeman, R-Macon.
"This is complementary to the sexual predator bill that we've already passed," Freeman said. "It's just another deterrent."
The bill amends current law that allows seizure of vehicles used in pimping underage prostitutes.
House Bill 1465 provides that automobiles could be seized upon arrest of anyone arrested for any of several serious sexual offenses against children. Only the registered owner of the car could be so punished.
"I wanted to make sure that if somebody's son were arrested while driving their parent's car, that the parents wouldn't be subject to it," Freeman said. "It doesn't apply to rental or borrowed cars, either."
Freeman said he was unaware of any controversy about how the civil forfeiture penalty has been applied to drug suspects.
Such laws, allowing law enforcement agencies to keep the proceeds of arrest forfeitures, have been criticized by civil liberties groups and courts for alleged abuse by police. The U.S. Congress passed a reform bill in 2000 tightening requirements for such seizures, and encouraging the use of forfeiture after conviction of a crime.

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