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Sunday, January 5, 2014 - 8:01pm

Lawmaker To Push For Civil Forfeiture Reform (Again)

As lawmakers prepare to head back to the state Capitol this month, they already have an idea of the bills they will be working to pass. For Representative Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, this session will be about civil forfeiture reform.

“I think we’ve got a good chance to get it through this time,” said Willard.

Representative Willard filed similar reform legislation last year, but the bill stalled under pressure from the Georgia Sheriff’s Association. Executive Director Terry Norris said current state law is effective.

“We’ve had a huge disagreement on this matter,” Norris added.

In order to fix what Norris believes is a “perceived” problem, however, he said the Sheriff’s Association would support regulations to make the reporting of asset seizures more transparent for the public. But he said the group would not stand for the discussion to involve what he claims are false stories in the media about officers seizing innocent people’s assets.

“If it is within the wisdom of the leadership of our state to stop or quit taking assets—ill-gained assets from criminal activity—then the sheriffs are going to politely and professionally disagree and oppose that,” said Norris. “But when the reasons cited for changing the current law are not based on fact and the examples used are not even cases made under the state forfeiture act, then they’re going to aggressively oppose that action or that discussion and that’s kind of what happened last year.”

Several Georgia sheriffs served on a committee to help draft this year’s version of the bill.