It was inevitable that the battle over administrative forfeiture would end up with the law enforcement lobby threatening legislators with “whose side are you on, us or the drug dealers?” For decades, this threat has scared legislators into giving law enforcement whatever they want, in this case, permission to confiscate private property without due process from whomever they see fit.
But this is not how a civilized society operates, which is why the U.S. Constitution forbids unreasonable search and seizure. Law enforcement is a critical function of government and there are many heros, but there are also bad actors who must not be given free rein independent of normal legal oversight and restrictions. In the past few years, there have been multiple arrests of Mississippi sheriffs for engaging in drug dealing and other criminal activities.
We commend Northside representative Joel Bomgar for leading this charge. Bomgar notes, the large majority of conservative think tanks oppose administrative forfeiture because it gives too much discretionary power to the police.
With the highest incarceration rate in the civilized world, Mississippi public opinion has turned solidly toward reform. If this reform is to be achieved, legislators are going to have to acknowledge the polls and buck the powerful law enforcement lobby. The battle over administrative forfeiture will be a test of this will.