Newsbrief: Oregon Appeals Court Overturns Asset Forfeiture Reform 7/11/03

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Oregon voters approved an asset forfeiture reform initiative in November 2000, but now a legal challenge from law enforcement has led the Oregon Court of Appeals to throw it out in a 2-1 split decision. In a Monday ruling, the court held that the initiative that led to the state's reformed current asset forfeiture law was unconstitutional because it changed too many provisions of the state constitution.

Under Oregon's previous asset forfeiture law, passed in a wave of drug war passion in 1989, police needed only a "reasonable suspicion" that the goods seized were related to illegal drug activity. Under the new law, police cannot dispose of seized goods unless and until they obtain a conviction. As important, 75% of proceeds from seized goods now go to drug treatment programs, not the law enforcement agency that made the seizure.

Law enforcement groups, who gained substantial financial benefits from the old law, opposed the initiative from the beginning and howled in pain at its passage, but the Lincoln Interagency Narcotics Team (LINT) didn't just whine -- it went to court. LINT lost its suit in Marion County Circuit Court, but appealed to the Court of Appeals, where the case was argued in January. In a narrow, some might even say crabbed, reading of Oregon statutes and case law, Judges Landau and Brewer ruled that although the initiative was directed at a single change -- "constitutional limitation on forfeiture of property" -- it actually made multiple changes in the state constitution, which is forbidden under state law.

Judge Armstrong dissented, arguing that while "I agree with the majority that Measure 3 made several substantive changes to the constitution, I disagree with its conclusion that at least two of the changes had to be adopted separately because they were not related closely enough to be adopted in a single amendment. I conclude that they were closely related and, consequently, that they did not have to be voted on separately. I also conclude that the measure complied with the single-subject requirement in [the Oregon constitution]."

No word yet on when or whether the state will appeal to the state Supreme Court.

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Issue #295, 7/11/03 Editorial: More Than One Kind of Pain | Alaska Court Rules Marijuana Possession Okay -- Judicial Day of Reckoning Coming | Doctors' Group Advises Physicians to Avoid Treating Pain with Opiates, Cites Persecution of Pain Doctors -- Tucson Case Illustrates Point | DRCNet Interview: Brazilian Antiprohibitionists Luiz Paulo Guanabara of Psicotropicus and Cecilia Szterenfeld of the Integrated Programs on Marginality | Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced in Argentina | In Memoriam: Don Topping, Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii | Newsbrief: Feds Appeal Ed Rosenthal Sentence | Newsbrief: Ruling Expected "Soon" in Santa Cruz Medical Marijuana Suit | Ashcroft Seeks Supreme Court Permission to Overturn Free Speech Ruling on Physician-Patient Discussion of Medical Marijuana | Newsbrief: Oregon Appeals Court Overturns Asset Forfeiture Reform | Newsbrief: Canadian Government to Distribute Medical Marijuana | Newsbrief: New DEA Administrator Karen Tandy Approved by Senate Judiciary Committee Following Medical Marijuana Controversy | Newsbrief: Former Scottish High Court Judge Says Legalize It | Newsbrief: British Doctors Don't Say Legalize It | The Reformer's Calendar

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