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Montana Gov Signs Major Bill To Protect You From Asset Forfeiture

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock signed a bill to reform civil asset forfeiture Tuesday.

The legislature passed the bill earlier this month and Tuesday was the last day the governor could sign or veto the legislation.

The new law enacts major reforms in the practice of civil asset forfeiture. Police can take and keep your property if they suspect it is connected to criminal activity– all without convicting or charging you with a crime.

The law requires a criminal conviction before forfeiture of property, which is a key element advocates were pushing for. Police can still take your property if they suspect it’s tied to criminal activity, but if you’re not convicted they must return it.

Even when there is a conviction, police must show by “clear and convincing” evidence the property is tied to the criminal activity in order to keep it, a significantly higher burden of proof than the previous burden of “probable cause.”

It also shifts the burden of proof to the government when your property is forfeited when someone else is at fault. This means that if your friend takes your live savings without permission and police seize it while your friend is committing a crime, you have a much better chance of getting that money back from police.

Legislatures in other states, including Michigan and California are considering reforms. New Mexico already passed sweeping reforms. (RELATED: The 7 Most Egregious Examples Of Civil Asset Forfeiture)

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