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. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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