Montana House Bills Strike Hard Blows to Police State

by Will Porter

Voices of Liberty – “Montana Just Nullified the Federal Police Militarization Program

Daily Caller – “Montana Gov Signs Major Bill To Protect You From Asset Forfeiture

Montana recently passed HB 330 and HB 463, bills which aim to curtail police militarization and civil asset forefeiture practices, respectively.

HB 330 will enforce “[l]imitations on excess property provided to local law enforcement” by the 1033 program, the DHS grant program, or any other program which involves federal transfers of military hardware to local police.

Examples of equipment which the bill seeks to limit include:

(a) automatic weapons not generally recognized as suitable for law enforcement purposes;

(b) drones that are armored, weaponized, or both;

(c) aircraft that: (i) are combat configured or combat coded; or (ii) have no established commercial flight application;

(d) grenades or similar explosives, including but not limited to flash-bang grenades, stun grenades, and grenade launchers;

(e) silencers;

(f) long-range acoustic devices; or

(g) tanks or tanklike vehicles.

In addition, law enforcement will now be expected to provide reasons for future equipment acquisitions—forcing them to justify their longings for tanks, MRAPS, sound cannons, and machine guns—as well as an online public record detailing what hardware the department has received.

HB 463, on the other hand, goes after the long-rampant practice of “civil asset forfeiture” (a fancy phrase for “Hey, you, gimme that!”).

The summary of the bill perhaps provides the best explanation of what it aims to do (taken out of all-caps for better readability):

An act generally revising forfeiture laws;

requiring a criminal conviction for forfeiture of property;

requiring notice of seized property;

providing for a pretrial hearing to determine the validity of the seizure;

requiring a hearing upon criminal conviction to determine whether property must be forfeited;

requiring proof by clear and convincing evidence that seized property was used in connection with or constitutes proceeds from the commission of a criminal offense;

providing exceptions for innocent owners and persons with an ownership interest in seized property;

applying pretrial hearing and innocent owner provisions to criminal forfeiture laws…

Officers will also be required to fill out an itemized receipt, documenting all seized property so that it doesn’t disappear into some bottomless evidence locker, never to be returned to its rightful owner.

In general, this bill shores up the ever-crumbling right to due process, and raises “burden of proof” standards.

Cops can still get their hands on military arsenals and steal your stuff with little accountability, but in Montana, at least, it just got a bit harder.