If I took, say, your first or second most-valuable possession, your car, I'd probably be stopped by cops, ordered to kiss the asphalt and thrown in jail.

It's a serious crime.

But police do this every day without the permission of a judge or jury.

A May survey of voters in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties concluded that 10 percent of them have had property taken by law enforcement officers “without a conviction,” states a summary of the data by Public Policy Polling.

One in five in these counties said they knew someone who had experienced this form of legalized theft.

A vast majority of California voters oppose “asset forfeiture” by police.

“Seventy-nine percent of Democrats, 83 percent of Republicans and 88 percent of independents all say that police should not be able to seize citizens’ property without a conviction,” PPP states.

Asset forfeiture is often done in the name of drug-crime investigations. The Drug Policy Alliance explains:

One of the ways in which law enforcement can legally take property or money from people in the absence of a conviction is through civil asset forfeiture, a highly controversial policy that allows law enforcement officers to seize cash or property that they suspect has been involved in criminal activity, such as drug sales. While California law offers greater protections, federal forfeiture laws do not require that police arrest or charge a person with a crime, or convict them. 

A Drug Policy Alliance analysis last year found that “many” police agencies in California were circumventing stricter state law in favor of federal rules that allow cops to more easily seize property.

“Civil asset forfeiture turns the bedrock of the American justice system — innocent until proven guilty —  on its head, and these polls make it crystal clear that the public feels threatened.” says Lynne Lyman, California state director of Drug Policy Alliance. “Civil asset forfeiture provides no protections for the innocent.”

A proposed state law, Senate Bill 443 by Los Angeles state Sen. Holly Mitchell and Manhattan Beach Assemblyman David Hadley, would require a conviction before cops could profit from seized assets.

The legislation is pending in the state Assembly. If you like the idea, show your support.

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