Rep. Wendell Willard Introduces Legislation to Reform Georgia’s Forfeiture Laws

ATLANTA – State Representative Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, announced that today he pre-filed legislation to reform Georgia’s civil forfeiture laws. The measure will modify the power of law enforcement to seize cash, cars, home and other property on the suspicion the property was involved in criminal activity.

“Civil forfeiture laws represent one of the most serious assaults on private property rights in the nation today,” said Rep. Willard. “This bill will protect due process, transparency and create better accountability.”

In a recent Institute for Justice report, Georgia was given a “D-” for its civil forfeiture laws and practices, with only four other state receiving similar low grades. In response, Rep. Willard formed a Forfeiture Rewrite Work Group to review Georgia’s current forfeiture law. This group met over the last two years to create legislation that would clarify and streamline Georgia’s forfeiture process by standardizing the state’s forfeiture provisions and consolidating its forfeiture laws into one primary code section.

The Forfeiture Rewrite Work Group included a representative from the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council, Attorney’s Generals office and Administrative Office of the Courts. With the help of Legislative Counsel, the work group drafted a new Uniform Civil Forfeiture Procedure Act (UCFPA) which, if approved by the General Assembly, will be located in Chapter 16 of Title 9, Civil Practice.

The UCFPA is taken from the drug forfeiture statute that has guided the vast majority of forfeitures in this state for the last 20 years. However, the new UCFPA is divided into separate code sections to make it easier to read and understand.

“The UCFPA improves the current law in Georgia by providing procedural safeguards for defendants by placing it within Title 9, thereby allowing greater protection for innocent owners, as well as more transparency and accountability by strengthening the mandatory reporting requirement. In addition, the bill ensures that those individuals proven guilty of a crime do not keep the fruits of their crime. Therefore, it strikes a much needed balance in forfeiture law between individual property rights and public safety,” added Rep. Willard.

Representative Wendell Willard represents the citizens of District 49, which includes portions of Fulton County. He was elected into the House of Representatives in 2000, and is the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He also serves on the Appropriations, Ethics, Judiciary Non-Civil, Rules, and Ways & Means committees, as well as the Special Joint Committee on Georgia Criminal Justice Reform.

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