Court rulings aid push for reforms of civil asset forfeiture, death penalty

The U.S. Supreme Court sent clear signals in February that the time is ripe for reform on two of Arise’s 2019 issue priorities. In Timbs v. Indiana, the court unanimously blocked Indiana’s attempt to use civil asset forfeiture to take a car that was worth much more than the maximum fine for the crime for which the person was convicted.

And in Madison v. Alabama, a 5-3 court applied the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment to halt the execution of a man whose mental capacity had diminished during 33 years of solitary confinement.

Arise will work this year to remedy injustices in Alabama’s civil asset forfeiture system. This process allows law enforcement to take millions of dollars from Alabamians every year, often without convictions or charges. Possible reforms include requiring a criminal conviction before the forfeiture, blocking agencies from profiting from seizures, and raising the burden of proof to link property to a crime.

Arise also will keep seeking reforms of Alabama’s death penalty system, including retroactive application of the 2017 law that forbids judges to impose a death sentence when a jury recommends life without parole. Other changes include a death penalty moratorium and bans on executing people who have an intellectual disability or were minors at the time of the crime.