I love Holly Springs. I had the honor of representing the Cherokee County City while a member of the House, where I also worked passionately on reforming civil asset forfeiture.
For the uninitiated, Civil Asset Forfeiture is a process by which the government takes permanent possession of private property without being required to secure a conviction or even charge someone with a crime. It flips the script on the concept of innocent until proven guilty, and forces defendants to forego their right to remain silent in order to try to get their property back from the government.
And so my passion for my city and for my biggest policy issue met at the intersection of Liberty and Justice at a recent city council meeting where the mayor of Holly Springs, Steve Miller, issued a proclamation forbidding the use of civil asset forfeiture by the city.
Here is the text of the proclamation:
Whereas: The 4th Amendment ensures the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Whereas: The 5th Amendment ensures the right of each individual shall not be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury… nor shall (they) be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself; nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.
Whereas: The 6th Amendment ensures the right In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed; which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor; and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
Whereas: The Constitution of the United States of America shall only be changed via an Article 5 Amendment, to which no amendment has ever been ratified with regard to the Bill of Rights.
Whereas: Article 6 paragraph 2 of the United States Constitution reads: This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
Whereas: Article 6 paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution reads: The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Whereas: 18 U.S. Code § 242 – Provides punishment for Deprivation of rights under color of law or all in the employment of Government.
Whereas: The practice of Civil Asset forfeiture violates the numerous rights previously mentioned and was never amended thru the Article 5 process, therefore Civil Asset Forfeiture is not in pursuance of the United States Constitution, and therefore notwithstanding and UNCONSTITIONAL, and every executive officer is bound by oath & affirmation to reject its practice, make void and null of force as it is a clear Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law.
Now, Therefore: I, Steven Miller, Mayor of Holly Spring Georgia, proclaim that the
practice of Civil Asset Forfeiture null, void, notwithstanding and absolutely forbidden within the
jurisdiction of Holly Springs.
Mayor Miller went on to say, “As we continue to grow, the temptation of being able to find additional sources of revenue at the expense of our constitutional rights, may prove to be to attractive for future leaders. I for one believe that it is the responsibility of the elected officials currently in office to take a stand and condemn any such abuses and potential abuse on behalf of our fellow citizens.”
The Mayor plans on sending the proclamation to other cities throughout the state in hopes that his action can be emulated in other paces.