Mesa County board, senator at odds over asset-forfeiture bill

Mesa County wants Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to veto a bill the commissioners said would hamstring law enforcement in rural areas by limiting civil forfeiture actions.

The bill, HB 1313, prohibits seizing agencies from receiving forfeiture proceeds from the federal government unless the value of the property and currency seized in the case exceeds $50,000 and the federal government commences a forfeiture proceeding that relates to a filed criminal case.

Opposition to the measure puts the commissioners — all Republicans — at odds with the leaders of the Republican-run state Senate and with state Sen. Ray Scott, a Grand Junction Republican, who supported the measure.

Civil forfeitures in Mesa County between 2012 and 2016 amounted to $2 million, but most of that, $1.1 million, was in forfeitures of less than $50,000.

Instead of going to Mesa County, those smaller amounts would go to the state, Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese said.

“All it’s going to do is grow state government,” Pugliese said.

Pugliese has challenged Scott to a debate about the merits of the measure.

Scott didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment.

The loss of funding won’t halt the county from cooperating with drug-interdiction efforts on Interstate 70, but the county will no longer receive the amount of money it had in the past, Pugliese said.

Forfeiture funds had been used to pay for training programs, equipment and crime-reduction efforts.

Hickenlooper last week told The Daily Sentinel that the measure had plenty of support despite his opposition.

“We used our weight to push against it,” Hickenlooper said. “Usually, when you push against something that hard and it still passes, it’s hard to stop it.”


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