Law enforcement agencies throughout Alabama and nationwide must abide by state and federal laws when dealing with illegal or stolen goods. Illicit drugs, pharmaceuticals, cash and other stolen goods that become police property after an arrest must be legally tracked and dealt with after coming into police custody. Law officers must also follow search and seizure law to ensure they are not in violation of the constitution.
In addition to illegal property and evidence, a new Alabama law would also allow police departments to seize certain items that were purchased with stolen money. According to reports, the new bill (House Bill 75) is working its way through the state legislature and is being sponsored by Rep. Allen Treadaway. OurBirmingham criminal defense attorneys are dedicated to staying abreast of developments in the law that may impact the rights of Alabama citizens. In addition to raising awareness of potential civil rights violations, we are also committed to protecting the rights of criminal defendants.
Under current Alabama law, there is a loophole that prevents law enforcement from seizing items that were purchased through identity theft with stolen credit cards. This means that if a defendant is accused of either of these crimes, law enforcement cannot automatically pursue the allegedly stolen goods. Advocates of the new law claims that the bill is attempting to stop criminals from keeping any of the ill-gotten property.
Currently, police departments can seize some items from arrests such as drugs and drug-related money. The new law would give law enforcement officials the right to seize property that was allegedly obtained illegally, including gift cards obtained through identity or credit card theft.The proposal raises concerns about probable cause and proof—how does a police department prove that items were in fact purchased with stolen property? Under what circumstances does a police department have the right to size certain property? Legislators in favor of the new bill claim that once items are traced to identity theft, law enforcement should be able to seize the property. There are two similar bills being introduced in the House and the Senate and both seem to be gaining support from legislators as well as police detectives throughout the state. According to supporters, Alabama is behind other states, including Florida and Georgia, where individuals convicted of identity theft do not get to keep the goods.
Another reason supporters are in favor of this bill is that many individuals who are convicted in Alabama will serve probation rather than go to prison. The already overcrowded prisons are seeking other punishments for convicted offenders. Despite the potential benefits seen by the criminal justice system and other advocates, there could be additional constitutional issues and potential violations when seizing property of alleged offenders. The law may be another tool to battle identity theft and other crimes, but defendants could be at risk of illegal property seizure.