IOWA SENATE FILE 446
Today the Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee introduced Senate File 446 (SF 446). This legislation proposes a few meaningful revisions to Iowa’s civil forfeiture laws. The 5 changes coming to Iowa Code Chapter 809A if SF 446 passes:
- SF 446 requires a criminal conviction before the State seeks forfeiture of property valued at less than $15,000.00
- SF 446 generally prohibits the transfer of property to the federal government valued at less than $100,000.00
- SF 446 codifies the constitutional proportionality test prohibiting forfeiture of assets grossly disproportionate in value to the penalties for the alleged criminal conduct.
- SF 446 requires seizing agencies to keep records on seized and forfeited property.
- SF 446’s most substantial change raises the State’s burden of proof from “a preponderance of the evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence”.
Raising the burden of proof is a substantial improvement to Chapter 809A. The hierarchy of trial burdens from most to least rigorous is:
- Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
- Clear and Convincing Evidence
- Preponderance of the Evidence
A preponderance of the evidence simply means more likely than not. Clear and convincing evidence means substantially more likely than not. Words may not adequately convey the difference. However, substantially more likely than not is a more difficult burden to meet than just more likely than not. That change alone makes SF 446 worth supporting.
FUTURE CHANGES TO IOWA FORFEITURE LAW
Nick lobbied the senate judiciary committee for additional changes to Iowa’s forfeiture laws including:
- Attorney’s fees for prevailing claimants; and
- Creating a pre-claim/answer motion to suppress.
Though these changes did not make it into SF 446, we will continue to lobby for them in future legislative sessions.
The full text of SF 446 is below