The Washington, D.C., Council on Tuesday agreed to overhaul the city's civil asset forfeiture program with a bill that would give property owners new rights and eventually require that seizure proceeds go into the city's general fund rather than to the police department, says the Washington Post. The council's unanimous vote caps more than a year of debate over the department's use of laws that allowed police officers to take millions of dollars in cash, cars and other property without charging the owners with crimes.
Advocates such as the District's Public Defender Service said the bill is needed to curb police power and protect working-class property owners. Law enforcement authorities said it would create an administrative burden for the city and affect the department's budget by reducing seizure revenue. The council is set to take a second and final vote on Dec. 2. The council was spurred in part by a series of Post articles in September reporting that more than $2.5 billion in cash had been seized under federal law from almost 62,000 people across the country since Sept. 11, 2001, without warrants or indictments.