Kansas civil asset forfeiture laws allow police to seize and keep property that is more likely than not involved in criminal activity. According to a report published by the Institute for Justice, “Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture,” most state forfeiture laws encourage police to pursue profit instead of the neutral administration of justice. The report graded each state’s forfeiture laws, giving Kansas a D minus.
In February of 2017, the Kansas Legislature asked the Kansas Judicial Council to form a committee to study the state’s forfeiture laws and to provide a report and recommendation for possible reforms. On this committee, law enforcement groups, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and others involved in asset forfeitures joined forces to propose amendments to the Kansas standard asset seizure and forfeiture act. Christopher M. Joseph, who has years of experience representing individuals whose property was seized for forfeiture pursuant to state and federal law, had the honor of being selected to serve on the Council’s Civil Asset Forfeiture Advisory Committee.
The Civil Asset Forfeiture Advisory Committee’s work resulted in House Bill 2459. The House passed the bill on February 22, 2018, by a vote of 110-7. On March 22, 2017, the Senate passed the bill 39-0. Now it will go to Governor Jeff Coyler’s desk.
If Governor Coyler signs the bill, the amended Kansas standard asset seizure and forfeiture act will eliminate strict pleading requirements that are often difficult to meet when the seized asset is cash; get rid of presumptions favoring forfeiture; allow for claimants to suppress unlawfully seized evidence while asserting their Fifth Amendment rights; and permit claimants to move to stay forfeiture proceedings while any related criminal case is pending. Once funded, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation will be responsible for maintaining a central record-keeping system to track all seized and forfeited assets, including information about the agency that seized the property, whether or not charges are ever filed in the case and the amount of proceeds received from forfeited assets. These enhanced reporting requirements will make the process more transparent.
Christopher Joseph will continue to advocate for additional reforms. He believes additional revisions can be made that will facilitate innocent owners to getting access to court sooner for earlier return of their property. He will also work for future versions of the law to provide for payment of attorney fees for prevailing clients (a feature of federal forfeiture law that increases the availability of quality representation for claimants).
Our attorneys handle asset seizure and forfeiture litigation in Kansas state and federal courts. With offices in Wichita (316-262-939), Topeka (785-234-3272), Lawrence (785-856-0143), and Overland Park (913-948-9490), we serve clients from the Oklahoma border to the Kansas City area.