HB 1558 is promoting corruption


Police forces are transforming into bands of modern-day Robin Hoods by taking from citizen’s pockets and giving to themselves.

With the introduction of House Bill 1558, law enforcement has found another avenue for police to profit.

HB 1558 would allow law enforcement to seize the cars and money of people arrested for soliciting a prostitute, whether or not they are even convicted, according to The Seattle Times.

The proposed HB 1558 is intended to deter sex trafficking and the solicitation of prostitutes. Despite its seemingly good intentions, HB 1558 would result in more frequent abuse of citizen rights rather than a decrease in sex trafficking.

HB 1558 relies on civil forfeiture in order to function, which is a problematic legal process to say the least.

Civil forfeiture is the legal procedure in which police can take and utilize an individual’s assets if the police suspect they are involved in illegal activity, without actually convicting or even charging them with a crime.

This presents obvious complications. Not only is civil forfeiture a monetary incentive for police to abuse their power and seize assets without providing any real justification, but it also violates countless innocent individuals’ rights to property.

The Drug Enforcement Agency is known for its use of civil forfeiture. Needless to say, this practice has not decreased crime or drug trafficking and has proven ineffective, according to the same article by The Seattle Times.

An investigative report conducted by The Washington Post in 2014 disclosed “61,998 cash seizures (have been) made on highways and elsewhere since 9/11 without search warrants or indictments,” which has “totaled more than $2.5 billion.”

The investigation also found that hundreds of police and drug task forces appear to rely on seized cash despite a federal ban that outlines the money cannot be used to pay salaries or support department budgets.

This information, along with exposed “trophy shot” pictures of confiscated money shared among policemen, should dispel any further doubts concerning incentives.

Unfortunately for innocent citizens who have their assets seized by policemen, the process of retrieving their money back is extremely strenuous and costly. Since these cases are officially civil actions, property owners receive very few protections.

If a citizen does decide to challenge the seizure, the process itself typically takes more than a year and often concludes by requiring the individual to sign agreements not to sue police over the seizures, according to the same report by The Washington Post.

Civil forfeiture is a highly unpopular practice across the board. Yet, HB 1558 speaks very little on the use of civil forfeiture, and largely focuses on the evils of human trafficking and its goal to end this form of modern day slavery.

The bill states: “The potential to make significant financial gains is what motivates sex traffickers to use force, coercion, and physical violence to require victims to engage in sex acts for profit.” Ironically, the same could be argued for law enforcement when the potential to make significant financial gains is what motivates policemen to utilize their power over citizens who are often innocent.

While the goals of HB 1558 are pure, the means by which the bill hopes to decrease sex trafficking are flawed and problematic at best.

The bill argues that human trafficking is an evil process that involves two guilty parties: those who run it and those who support it. However, legislatures can design a more effective way to decrease sex trafficking and prosecute buyers of sex without encouraging policing for profit.

Bottom line: citizens should not have their property seized before being convicted of any wrongdoing. Do not support HB1558 – not because of its goal, but because of its means.