ILNews

Attorney general wants to rewrite civil forfeiture law

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Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is asking legislators to make changes to the state’s civil forfeiture law during the 2011 session. He wants to work with lawmakers to create and pass a bill that establishes a formula on how forfeitures would be distributed and enacts stricter regulations on the use of outside counsel to file civil forfeiture actions on behalf of prosecutors.

The announcement comes days after a lawsuit filed in August in Marion Superior Court was unsealed, which claims prosecutors have violated statute that directs money from civil forfeitures that exceed law enforcement costs to be transferred to the Indiana Common School Fund, which loans schools money for technology and construction projects.

Current law allows police and prosecutors to seize the proceeds of the crime from the offender and file a forfeiture action to use those proceeds to fund law enforcement efforts. Some say the law is too vague and prosecutors have various interpretations for calculating law enforcement costs that may be funded by the forfeiture proceedings.

“Under the current law, prosecutors have a great deal of autonomy to decide how to direct any civil forfeiture funds they recover from drug offenders they sue. There needs to be clarity of intent from the Indiana General Assembly as to whether assets seized and forfeited from criminal defendants should be directed to law enforcement to fund drug interdiction and enforcement efforts, or to the Common School Fund,” Zoeller said in a statement. “The place to have that debate is in the legislative branch which has the ability to change the statute – not in court, through a lawsuit.”

Zoeller is recommending legislators draft a bill that would allocate a specific, consistent percentage of the forfeitures to law enforcement agencies, county prosecutors, and the Common School Fund. He also believes Indiana needs stronger controls governing when prosecutors can hire outside counsel and that there should be limits on the contingency fees that outside counsel can get in civil forfeitures.
 

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  • The Constitution has already deal with what the AG proposes to do.
    Article 8, §2 of the Constitution of Indiana states, in its pertinent part, that:
    The Common School fund shall consist of . . . the fines assessed for breaches of the penal laws of the State; and from all forfeitures which may accrue.

    Article 8, §3 of the Constitution of Indiana states, in its pertinent part, that:
    The principal of the Common School fund shall remain a perpetual fund, which may be increased, but shall never be diminished; and the income thereof shall be inviolably appropriated to the support of Common Schools, and to no other purpose whatever.
    ===
    The Constitution would have to be changed to allow law enforcement to lawfully receive any value of the fine or forfeiture.

    Occasionally there is a legal question with a simple answer. This is one of them.

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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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