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Gov. Mead vetoes asset forfeiture bill

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CHEYENNE — Gov. Matt Mead on Tuesday vetoed a bill that would have made it harder for police and prosecutors to seize property from people they believe have been involved in drug crimes.

Mead on Tuesday vetoed a Senate bill that would have required that a person be convicted of a drug felony before their property could be seized by the state. Under the current law, police may confiscate property, including money and cash, if they believe they are linked to a crime.

Mead, a former U.S. Attorney for Wyoming, said Tuesday he doesn't believe Wyoming has seen abuses of its existing forfeiture law that would justify changing it.

Organizations such as the Wyoming ACLU and the Wyoming Liberty groups have called for reforming the state law. The groups have said the laws have been abused by law enforcement nationwide, with innocent people losing their property.

Mead on Tuesday said he knows there's been a lot of discussion about the forfeiture issue nationally. "But partly from my experience in law enforcement and knowing the law enforcement officers, it looked like to me that the way forfeiture has been operating in Wyoming, that it has been working appropriately," he said. "I think it's a legitimate tool to help in the areas, not limited to, but particularly in drug crimes."

It would take a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to override Mead's veto. The bill cleared both houses by margins far above that level in this legislative session. The bill had been sponsored by the Joint Interim Judiciary Committee, which held hearings on it last year.

"I understand what the vote was," Mead said. "It was overwhelmingly supported, but it's just an area where I have strong disagreements with the direction of the Legislature."

Mead, in his veto letter to Senate President Sen. Phil Nicholas, R-Laramie, stated that he appreciated the Legislature's work on the bill. He stated he recognizes that civil forfeiture proceedings have been abused in some states.

"Here in Wyoming law enforcement officers — prosecutors, sheriffs, police officer, the Attorney General — have used civil forfeiture as a legitimate tool against those who would profit from the destruction caused by drugs," Mead wrote.


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