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Your Rights Soon To Be Crushed by Utah Senate!
Will You Fight Back, or Surrender?

(Alert 2/11/04; provided by Arnold Gaunt)

Summary: In Orwellian fashion, SB 175, "Protection of Private Lawfully Obtained Property", claims to increase "innocent owner protections" by repealing the most critical provisions of Initiative B that protect innocent property owners.  The following attacks on your rights are instituted by the bill:

1.  Property owners will be subjected to unjust federal laws that carry a presumption of guilt for the innocent.

2.  Due process is destroyed by providing police with a financial incentive to take property from innocent owners.

3.  The American system of divided, checked, and balanced government is replaced by an alien system of government that consolidates enforcement and funding authority in the police.

See "Details & Analysis" below for further explanation.


What You Must Do

1.  Contact your State Senator and insist that he or she reject SB 175.  Tell him or her that property owners are not protected by changes subjecting them to federal law, where there is a presumption of guilt, not innocence.  You may contact your Senator at 801-538-1035, or fax at 801-538-1878.  For Democratic Senators, 801-538-1406, and fax 801-538-1449.
Find your senator or obtain additional contact information.

2.  Attend the hearing on SB 175.  It will be held before the Senate Judiciary Committee starting at 8 A.M. on February 13 (Friday) in Room 414.

3.  Attend the emergency town meeting being held on February 14, Saturday, beginning at 10:15 A.M. at the West Jordan public library, located at 1970 W 7800 S.  At this meeting you will have an opportunity receive additional information on SB 175, and ask questions regarding it and forfeiture procedure in general.

4.  Implore the intervention Divine Providence against the darkness of the unjust forfeiture statutes that we face.


Details & Analysis

With Senate President Al Mansell at the controls, the Utah Senate is planning to immediately bulldoze your rights.  SB 175, "Protection of Private Lawfully Obtained Property", was moved without warning to the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday.  According to my Senator Scott Jenkins, there are presently only nine votes in the Senate to oppose this legislation.

For the last two weeks or so, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and fellow confiscation lobbyists have been aggressively promoting SB 175 as a means to provide Utah federal money to which it is entitled, and to further protect the rights of the innocent property owner.  In fact, the bill states in its highlighted provisions that it "increases innocent owner protections".

Nothing could be further from the truth.  The text of the bill, and its relationship to federal law, establishes a vicious subversion of your rights.

View the bill in .pdf format or in .html format.  On lines 471 through 473 of the bill the following verbiage is added:

"(d) A [state] court order to transfer the property is not required if a federal agency seeking jurisdiction over the property obtains a seizure warrant, search warrant, arrest warrant in rem, or other federal process mandating the transfer."

This one sentence addition de facto repeals the existing law on lines 455 through 470.  With the existing law transfers to the federal government by Utah's officers are allowed only if authorized by a state court.  The state court has limited conditions under which transfers are allowed, and may refuse to issue an order if the property owner's rights under the Utah Constitution would be violated.

In the comparable forfeiture bill (SB 31) that was withdrawn by Sen. Valentine last year, the requirement for a state court to authorize a transfer was deleted.  This year, rather than deleting this language, the confiscation lobby has deceptively added one sentence that accomplishes the same objective by nullifying protections of the Utah Constitution that would otherwise be afforded to innocent property owners.

The significance of the change arises from the operation of drug strike forces (forfeiture squads) that are principally composed of local law enforcement officers and typically at least one federal officer.  Prior to the reforms enacted by Initiative B, when the local law enforcement members of the strike force seized property, they could readily transfer it to the federal government through their federal member to deprive the owner of protections provided by Utah law.  With SB 175, Utah law can once again be readily subverted by officers who operate under its authority.

There is significant motivation to transfer property to the federal government.  The first is that there is limited protection for the innocent owner making it easy to take property.  Under federal law (see Title 18, Chapter 46, Sec. 983(d)(1)):

"[The] claimant [innocent property owner] shall have the burden of proving that the claimant is an innocent owner by a preponderance of the evidence."

In other words, as a property owner you are presumed guilty.  It is because of this and other components of unjust federal law that the restrictions on transferring property to the federal government were enacted.  If General Shurtleff has his way and eliminates the restrictions, there will be no protection against this injustice.

To view the federal code, perform a search with the information in the preceding paragraph at http://uscode.house.gov/usc.htm

Once the property of an innocent owner is forfeited by the federal government, under federal law up to 80% of the proceeds from it can be returned to the seizing agency.  However under current Utah law, any proceeds must be transferred to the State Treasurer for deposit in the Uniform School Fund.  This provision of law was added to prevent "policing for profit", and to ensure that a property owner would receive due process.  Plainly, if the police have a direct financial stake in the outcome of a forfeiture, the right of an innocent owner to receive fair and impartial treatment is subverted.

On lines 476-478 the requirement to transfer proceeds to the State Treasurer is eliminated, and is replaced by lines 479-484 which allow the law enforcement agencies to receive money directly from the federal government without control and authorization by a legislative body.  The fundamental American principle of divided, checked, and balanced government is destroyed.  Funding and enforcement authority is vested in the police.

The forfeiture proceeds received by the seizing agency can be used to obtain federal grants, which can provide three dollars for every dollar provided by the seizing agency.  Again, this does not require authorization by a legislative body.  By funding themselves, the local police no longer have local accountability.

Arnold J. Gaunt
(801) 621-3122


Note from Accountability Utah: For more information, see the Property Rights section of our Issues & Alerts page.  Also, you can help pass out fliers.


If you have comments or suggestions, please email us at info@accountabilityutah.org.


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