Measure 53

Legislative Argument in Support

The State of Oregon cannot seize and forfeit a person's property unless the person has been convicted of a crime, the crime is connected to the property and the value of the seized property is proportional to the crime committed.

This was not always true. Before Ballot Measure 3 in November, 2000, property could be forfeited even if the owner of the property had not been convicted of a crime. Measure 3 amended the Oregon Constitution to require a criminal conviction.

But Measure 3 left many things unclear. For example, can a large amount of cash found next to a large quantity of methamphetamine be forfeited? What can a county sheriff do to save neglected pets when it may take months to convict the pet's owners of neglect? Can the pets be put up for adoption? Can local law enforcement share in the proceeds when it assists federal law enforcement in carrying out a forfeiture under federal law?

In response to these unanswered questions, the 2007 Legislature worked with the Oregon Department of Justice, the Oregon District Attorneys Association, the Oregon Chiefs of Police, the Oregon State Sheriffs Association, the ACLU of Oregon, and the Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association to develop Ballot Measure 53. If Ballot Measure 53 is adopted, certain abandoned property and neglected or abused animals can be forfeited without a conviction. Under Ballot Measure 53, the cash next to the methamphetamines can be forfeited, the pets can be put up for adoption, and local governments can share in the proceeds for assisting the federal government.

Committee Members: / Appointed by:
Senator Floyd Prozanski / President of the Senate
Representative Suzanne Bonamici / Speaker of the House
Representative Andy Olson / Speaker of the House

(This Joint Legislative Committee was appointed to provide the legislative argument in support of the ballot measure pursuant to ORS 251.245.)

Argument in Favor

Ballot Measure 53 is a much needed correction
Eight years ago, Oregonians passed the Property Protection Act (PPA), amending the Oregon Constitution to prohibit property forfeitures before a defendant's conviction. The PPA was intended to apply in drug cases. However, due to its overly broad wording, the PPA adversely affected the safety and wellbeing of Oregon's most vulnerable animals—those seized from an abuser. Under current law, just like a car or couch, animals are considered mere property and the PPA, applies to all property (not just the drug houses or the cars used to transport the drugs), meaning that Oregon's pre-conviction forfeiture statute applicable in animal cruelty cases was inadvertently compromised by the PPA.

Why is forfeiture so important in animal abuse cases?
Before the PPA, Oregon law allowed humane societies that cared for abused animals seized in criminal investigations to petition the court and transfer ownership of the animals—if the defendant didn't post a cost-of-care bond, then the court could order the animals forfeited to the humane society. This preconviction forfeiture process meant that seized animals did not have to be held indefinitely while the underlying criminal case moved through the system (a processes that takes close to a year to complete-longer if an appeal is taken). Rather, animals could be placed in loving homes to live out the balance of their natural lives within weeks after having been rescued.

The fix is Ballot Measure 53
Ballot Measure 53 ensures that Oregon's animals will not languish in the "system" and that humane care providers do not have to hold the animals for months (if not years) while the criminal case drags on and on. Rather, the animals can be adopted into loving homes—a just result in light of what these animals had to endure before they were seized from the hands of their abusers.

Don't leave the safety of Oregon's animals up to chance. Vote Yes on Ballot Measure 53.

(This information furnished by Scott A. Heiser, Animal Legal Defense Fund.)

Argument in Favor

Vote Yes on Measure 53

Measure 53 is simple: It will fix unintended problems caused by Measure 3.

Measure 53 fixes problems with Measure 3

In November of 2000, Oregon voters passed Measure 3. The purpose was to increase protections for property owners, and make sure that government did not confiscate property for criminal activity without first getting a criminal conviction. Unfortunately, the way Measure 3 was written created some unintended problems.

Convicted drug dealers keeping ill-gotten gains

One problem is that Measure 3 allows drug dealers to keep much of their ill-gotten gain, even after being convicted! That is just plain wrong, and must be corrected.

Abused and neglected animals suffering in shelters

Another unintended consequence of Measure 3 relates to abused and neglected animals, leaving them to languish in shelters for long periods of time pending the outcome of criminal cases. This must also be corrected.

Measure 53 is the solution to these problems

Representatives from law enforcement sat down with representatives from civil liberties and criminal defense groups and worked out a solution. The result was approved by the Oregon Legislature and became Measure 53.

Measure 53 deserves your support


(This information furnished by Rob Bovett, Legal Counsel, Oregon Narcotics Enforcement Association.)