Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter (D-Syracuse) convened a press conference on Tuesday, May 2, urging the New York State Assembly to approve her proposed legislation aimed at safeguarding due process in cases involving the confiscation of property and/or money by law enforcement agencies (A.641/S.2192).
At the press conference, Assemblywoman Hunter was accompanied by Cristal Starling and her attorney, Lee McGrath of the Institute for Justice. Ms. Starling is preparing to contest the forfeiture of $8,040 seized after police raided her apartment based on the suspicion that her boyfriend was trafficking illicit drugs.
“While civil asset forfeiture was intended to undermine the proceeds of criminal enterprises, it has sadly led to perverse incentives by police departments. Ms. Starling’s case is, unfortunately, one of many examples where a New Yorker had property and/or currency seized by law enforcement with no due process,” said Assemblywoman Hunter. “My legislation would ensure that there is due process in asset forfeiture and removes harmful incentives to confiscate assets unlawfully, to prevent other New Yorkers from going through what Ms. Starling sadly experienced.”
No charges were ever filed against Ms. Starling and her boyfriend was acquitted, but the police never returned her assets. Ms. Starling’s case is set to be brought before the United States Court of Appeals 2nd Circuit in New York City this Thursday, May 4.
“This bill is important; it is not about me. It is about the next New Yorker who deserves a better process than the one I am facing,” Ms. Starling said. “I did not do anything wrong, I was never charged, I was never convicted, but I had to litigate the return of my $8,040 through a complex New York process, and now, through a mind-boggling federal process. No New Yorker should ever have to face this.”
“The legislature should pass Assemblywoman Hunter’s A.641 to end civil forfeitures and replace it with a criminal forfeiture process in criminal court and restrict the outsourcing of forfeiture litigation to the Federal Government,” Lee McGrath said. “The legislature has the responsibility to set the crimes and punishments, and New Yorkers are due a process that reflects New York values and not those of the Federal Government.