SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The Hampden District Attorney’s office is pushing back against a bill moving through Beacon Hill surrounding the state’s laws on civil asset forfeiture.
Civil Asset Forfeiture is a practice in which police departments can seize things like cash, vehicles, and other items if they think those items could be connected to a crime. This proposed bill would do a couple of things. It would set a minimum price for seized assets, nothing less than $250. And it would give public counsel to defendants looking to get back any assets that were seized from them. That’s the sticking point for the DA’s office, they’re worried that changes to the law would allow drug dealers to reclaim illicit profits.
Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni told 22News, “In my opinion as a voter and a citizen and a taxpayer, I don’t want to pay for free lawyers for people to keep their proceeds from drug trafficking and dealing.”
State Senator John Velis said, “It just does not make sense with how deadly it is right now with things like fentanyl. We are seeing fentanyl in everything right now. There’s never been a worse time to pull law enforcement back from what they’re doing in narcotics.”
Notably, a commission to study the impacts of asset forfeiture in the state released a report back in 2021. They found that the state has a lower burden of proof to seize assets than the rest of the nation and there was no framework for District Attorney’s to report exactly how they’re spending seized cash. Both points also addressed in the Senate bill.