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Drug enforcement efforts may also implicate civil forfeiture

Readers may be aware that there are both state and federal laws against the possession, delivery, manufacturing, sale, trafficking and/or distribution of drugs or other controlled substances. Given that overlap, it may make sense for local or state officials to partner with federal counterparts in enforcement efforts. 

However, there is also a lesser-known financial incentive: equitable sharing. Under this federal program, local officials that partner with a federal agency may be able to retain up to 80 percent of any proceeds from forfeited property.

In one example, local police arrested some college students on marijuana-related charges. Instead of prison sentences, the students got probation, small fines or other more positive outcomes. Yet the students lost an estimated $300,000 in property to authorities because of the arrest, including motor vehicles, cash, and electronic and cellphone devices.

Under the doctrine of civil forfeiture, local officials seized the property from the students even before formal charges were filed. According to a report by the local police department, the drugs seized from the students amounted to only about $29,000.

Did the local officials have an ulterior motive in making the raid on the students? Some of the students may have gladly given up their personal property to avoid a jail sentence, yet a criminal defense attorney might take issue with how local officials acted in that instance. For anyone facing a drug charge, it is highly advisable to consult with an attorney. An attorney can help handle complications or related law enforcement activities that may arise from a drug seizure, such as the civil forfeiture example in today’s story.

Source: Forbes, “Cops In Texas Seize Millions By ‘Policing for Profit’,” Nick Sibilla, June 5, 2014

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