73% of Arizona Voters Believe Civil Asset Forfeiture Needs Reform
The U.S. Justice Action Network, the largest bipartisan group working to reform the justice system in Arizona and around the country, today released new polling, which showed a majority of voters across Arizona support civil asset forfeiture reform and protecting the rights of property owners. The poll comes at a time when the Arizona Senate is considering a bill that would reform the state’s forfeiture laws, H.B. 2477, a bill that unanimously passed the House in February.
H.B. 2477, introduced by Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, would increase the proof required before the state may permanently forfeit a person’s property, while increasing transparency and reporting into the process. According to the poll, nearly half of Arizona voters are familiar with civil asset forfeiture, and, among these voters, there is a very strong desire for reforms, like those in H.B. 2477. When voters learned more about the procedure, almost three-quarters of Arizonans, including 63% of Republicans, 76% of Independents, and 81% of Democrats, believe the state’s current civil asset forfeiture processes are in need of reform.
“This poll makes it clear that Arizonans want their legislators to enact reforms that better protect their property, and they want these reforms now,” said Holly Harris, Executive Director of the U.S. Justice Action Network. “We applaud the Arizona House for unanimously passing reforms, and look forward to working with the Senate to ensure that this bill becomes law, reflecting the clear will of the people. Governor Ducey has showed a strong commitment to bringing common sense reforms to Arizona’s justice system, and the civil asset forfeiture reforms in H.B. 2477 are a great first step.”
Among the poll’s top findings include:
- 47% of Arizona voters are familiar with civil asset forfeiture, and among these voters, 58% say it is in need of reform, and only 5% say it is working well right now.
- 73% of Arizona voters believe civil asset forfeiture needs reform after learning more about it.
- 87% of Arizona voters believe that government in Arizona should only be able to permanently seize money or other property from someone who is charged and convicted, including 85% of Republicans, 85% of Independent, and 90% of Democrats.
- 51% of Arizona voters would be more likely to re-elect their state legislator if they learned that their representative wanted to reform civil asset forfeiture.
Since 2000, government officials in Arizona have seized and forfeited more than $481 million in property. Based on current law, this can be done based only on the suspicion that an individual participated in criminal activity, without a conviction or even a charge. H.B. 2477 would raise the standard of proof before a forfeiture is final, and dramatically increase transparency and oversight into the practice.
Polling was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies between March 4 to March 6, 2017, surveying 500 Arizona voters.