Asset Forfeiture Reform Activists Reignite Debate for Reform in Missouri
When Missouri drug task forces seize assets they believed were used in a crime, state law says they have to give it to the state school fund. However, cops don't trust state lawmakers to use it for that purpose, so they bypass the rule and use a federal program to keep the money for themselves.
The remarks describe a process that has been well-known to property-rights activists for years (Daily RFTreported on it back in 2010), but they've nonetheless provided new fuel for those who aim to reform forfeiture laws, especially since the topic has received more attention in the national media lately. But first, check this out:
Back in December, Kevin Glaser, a retired sergeant and current vice president of the Missouri Narcotics Officers Association, attended a Show-Me Cannabis town hall meeting in Poplar Bluff to talk about marijuana legalization. In a video of the event, Glaser was asked about asset forfeiture and the ex-drug cop answered bluntly, saying that when assets are seized, state legislators can't be trusted to put the money into the state school fund.
"If we seize funds, drug proceeds from a criminal, the state of Missouri says, that gets forfeited to the school fund," Glaser says. "In theory, that's a very good law to have. In practice, that's not what happens."
Instead, state legislators just subtract the amount added to the school fund from seized assets and put it in other things. So rather than giving the money to the state, drug task forces give it to the federal government through the Department of Justice's asset forfeiture program.
This is favorable, Glaser says, because most of the money gets returned to law-enforcement departments to boost their own budgets:
"If we seize $50,000 from a drug seizure and it is drug proceeds, it's forfeited through the state of Missouri to the school fund to fund our schools. That sounds good. They have $50,000 to play with now. In actuality, though, what happens is our state legislators, when they're divvying out the money to the schools, and they see that $50,000 go into the school fund from asset forfeiture, they take out $50,000 they were gonna contribute to the school fund. The school fund does not make an additional $50,000 off of that. That's the way asset forfeiture has been since it came into effect.
What law enforcement has done is, seeing that there's really no good coming to Missouri from asset forfeiture because other than funding general revenue - that's all it really does - we utilize federal forfeiture, which allows us to take that $50,000 seized from the drug proceeds and then we can, applied through a court system that has several checks and balances to make sure it was a very factual and legitimate seizure, then that $50,000 -- and actually it's only 80 percent of that because the federal government gets 20 percent right off the bat -- but 80 percent of that $50,000 can come back and be used by local law enforcement for very specific -- buying equipment, buying cars, -- there are very specific requirement, you just can't go out and spend it randomly on whatever you want. It can be utilized by the police department to further enhance the department and drug investigations and criminal investigations.
Click on the next page for more about asset forfeiture in Missouri...