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. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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