Oregon Property Forfeiture Requirements, Measure 3 (2000)
at the ballot.
by a large margain at the November 2000 General Election.
Asset Forfeiture and the Law in 2000
In a civil "asset forfeiture proceeding," the government agency may seize and dispose of property that the government believes was used in a crime or is the proceeds of a crime. The property may be personal property, cash, homes or businesses. Under Oregon law in 2000, there was no requirement that the owner of the property must first be arrested or convicted of a crime before his or her property is forfeited to the government.
The law in 2000 also said that the government must establish probable cause (more likely than not) that the property was used to facilitate a crime, or was acquired from the proceeds of criminal activity.
Upon its passage, Measure 3 would require the government to prove by the stricter standard of clear and convincing evidence that the property was used to commit, or was the proceeds of, the crime for which the owner was convicted. If the person whose property was seized is not charged or convicted of a crime, the property must be returned unless the property has been abandoned or is contraband.
Amends Constitution: Requires Conviction Before Forfeiture; Restricts Proceeds Usage; Requires Reporting, Penalty
Ray Heslep and Sandra Adamson
 Harry Detwiler of Oregonians for Property Protection, supported the measure due to a personal experience he had dealing with the current asset forfeiture laws. He tells the Secretary of State,
"My problems began in 1997 shortly after my son and I sold a former rental property. The new owner was arrested for growing marijuana. During the arrest, police found my name on some of the man's paperwork.
So they drove to my house 25 miles away to see what I knew. I was not home, but they entered anyway. They found the keys to my safe and took $35,000, my life savings.
When I returned home I thought I had been robbed. Police soon arrived and told me they had taken my money under civil forfeiture laws. They said I should have known the man who bought my home was growing marijuana.
For three years, I have fought unsuccessfully to get my money back.
I was never charged with a crime. Still they refuse to give my money back. Even after I produced business receipts showing where the $35,000 came from. In America, people are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.But that's not how asset forfeiture laws work. I was never convicted of a crime."
Chief petitioner Ray Heslep maintained, "No one should ever lose their property to the government unless they are first convicted of a crime involving the use of their property."
Many supporters argued that the current law contradicts the notion that people are "innocent until proven guilty."The ACLU supported the measure for the purpose of taking the "profit out of crime."
Some of the others in favor of the measure were:
- Oregonians for Property Protection
- Libertarian Party of Oregon
- Oregon Gun Owners
- State Rep. Floyd Prozanski
 Humane Societies across the state stood up in opposition, pointing out that the measure could harm animals, who are considered property under the law. Animals shelters and humane societies, under the current law in 2000, used forfeiture laws to attain full custody of rescued animals in order to place them in good homes. These organizations feared that the measure would force authorities to reconsider rescuing animals from homes where they were being abused, because it would require an expensive and possibly lengthy court case.
Others opposed the measure because they feared it would take away the authorities' ability to shut down drug houses in local neighborhoods. Some said that Measure 3 wrongly protected the property rights of criminals.
Opposed citizens Brian J. Porter, Donna Faye Porter, and Jeanne M. Petrella submitted a letter to the Secretary of State, saying,
"Imagine buying a house in a neighborhood. You like the area, it's safe for your children and you feel safe there. A neighbor moves in. Something is wrong. There is traffic in your neighborhood at all hours. You become suspicious and you are in communication with the police. You note license plate numbers and anything that seems out of place. You are constantly vigilant. Being at home becomes a second job.
The dealer on our street was dealing large quantities of cocaine and had guns. The house was ordered forfeited due to work done by a local drug task force investigating the dealer. Without forfeiture, the dealer, who owns numerous properties, might have returned to our neighborhood to continue his activities after his release from prison in two or three years. Or the drug house could have continued to be operated by his associates while he served his prison term. The best thing for our neighborhood was that he lost the house."
Some others opposed to the measure were:
- The Sheriffs of Oregon Committee
- Animal Protection Institute
- Former Governor Neil Goldschmidt
- Earl Blumenauer, Member of Congress
- List of Oregon ballot measures
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- Laws governing the initiative process in Oregon
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