The court moved to strengthened the constitutional protection for owners facing civil forfeiture. Under the forfeiture law, police and prosecutors can keep up to 100% of the proceeds from forfeited property. Since 1985, they have confiscated 4,200 vehicles and over $55 million in cash.
Last year an investigation done by the Des Moines Register uncovered abuses arising from this law. The Iowa legislators took action by amending the existing law. They amended the law to allow more protection for innocent owners. They required a criminal conviction for police to apply the forfeiture to property valued under $5,000. The law allowed for confiscation of property even without filing a criminal charge against the owner before the amendment.
The court didn’t address the low threshold required to convict an owner so there is still the distinct possibility that the police and prosecutors will continue their confiscations.
One case which was investigated concerned Jean Carlos Herrera whom was pulled over for going 4 miles over the limit in Pottawattamie County, IA. After being pulled over a police drug dog alerted Sergeant Kevin Killpack to Herrera’s car. A search of the car was performed without consent, some drug paraphernalia and remnants of marijuana were found. Killpack cited Herrera for speeding but no other crime. Herrera’s car was seized with all property contained inside the vehicle. The vehicle was owned by Herrera’s friend, Fenando Rodriguez.