That's right, two district attorneys were using stolen cash for personal use. But, knowing the nature of government, this shouldn't be surprising.
These are just two examples out of many more cases of civil asset forfeiture used for personal benefit. Fortunately, there is pending legislation that could help put an end to such practices.
The property seized during asset forfeiture is only supposed to be used for public benefit. Not for the benefit of government officials. According to Oklahoma Watch:
Under state law, the money or proceeds from forfeited property are supposed to be spent on enforcement of drug laws and drug-abuse prevention and education. …
Regarding use of the property or money after seizure, audits of district attorney's accounts by the State Auditor and Inspector's Office have found the assets in a number of cases were misused or not accounted for.
A 2009 audit of the district attorney’s office that represents Beaver, Cimarron, Harper and Texas counties found that a Beaver County assistant district attorney began living rent-free in a house obtained in a 2004 forfeiture. A judge had ordered the house sold at an auction, but the prosecutor lived there through 2009.
Utility bills and repairs made to the house were paid out of the district attorney’s supervision fee account, the audit states.
The audit recommended the house be sold and the supervision fee account be reimbursed.
“These conditions resulted in expenditures that were not for the enforcement of controlled dangerous substances laws, drug abuse prevention and drug abuse education,” the report stated.
Oklahoma senator Kyle Loveless is pushing legislation that would greatly limit the ability to seize property for local law authority. Naturally, this is a good thing – since police should serve and protect citizens rather than seizing property like spoils of war or like a pirate's booty. Though, some law enforcement groups still want to keep the ability to act like pirates.
Law enforcement officials counter that forfeiture is necessary to combat drug trafficking and say that abuses are rare. They say Loveless is hyping the issue and using scare tactics to push his bill.
“I’m very concerned that’s the line he’s taking in that,” said District Attorney Greg Mashburn, who represents Cleveland, Garvin and McClain counties and sits on the commission overseeing the Oklahoma State Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. …
Comanche County Sheriff Kenny Stradley, who also sits on the Bureau of Narcotics commission, said Loveless’ bill would cripple law enforcement agencies’ counter-drug efforts.
“I know for a fact we all try to work very hard to rid this devil’s candy off of our state. And for someone to try and push us back – sheriff’s departments, police departments – that’s how we continue our fight, is to take that money and go forward,” Stradley said. “That will set us back many, many, many years.”
What do you think? Should local law enforcement be able to seize property or is it an egregious abuse of power?
Source: Oklahoma Watch