South Carolina solicitors working on civil forfeiture reform

Civil Forfeiture Bill

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Five South Carolina solicitors are working to reform a proposed bill involving civil forfeiture.

This comes after 80 state representatives signed a bill to reform civil asset forfeiture in February.

Civil asset forfeiture is a law that allows police to take away money or items made from illegal operations and put it back into the police department.

Last legislative season, lawmakers proposed a bill that would put an end to civil asset forfeiture. The proposed bill would allow law enforcement to only seize property with a criminal conviction.

“A prosecutor doesn’t usually draft laws. We just go out and deal with whatever they pass. This particular piece of legislation was so bad there was no working with it,” explained 15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson. “There were a lot of holes and it didn’t fit South Carolina law at all.”

The proposed bill was sparked by an investigation by the Greenville News. The investigation revealed South Carolina agencies seized more than $17 million in three years.

In the past few years, thousands of dollars in cash, a mobile home and a TV all have been seized by Horry County agencies.

Currently in civil forfeiture, law enforcement has to prove there’s more than a 51% chance the money or items seized by police came from illegal drug sales.

“The proposed changes would include going from a 51% standard or preponderance level to beyond a reasonable doubt level, which is for laments terms about 85% to 90%,” said Richardson.

Another change would make it stricter for police to seize items during traffic stops. Richardson explained some departments were seizing money when only a small amount of drugs were found.

“We won’t take money if it’s just associated with a small amount of marijuana or a small amount of cocaine,” he said.

The five solicitors working on these proposed changes are meeting on Thursday in Columbia.

Copyright 2019 WMBF. All rights reserved.