Distribution of wealth on I-40

bullet image Via Grits for Breakfast, everybody’s after a piece of that asset forfeiture pie.

Cashing in: Who benefits most from seized currency?

Perhaps no issue proves more quietly contentious in the local law enforcement community than how the seized currency – about $14.6 million in 5 1/2 years – is divided among agencies hungry for revenue in a struggling economy.

In the end, only about 6.4 percent – or roughly $935,000 – of those seizures have remained in the area to benefit regional law enforcement agencies and taxpayers, according to hundreds of pages of documents released by the DPS in response to a public information request by the Amarillo Globe-News.

Records indicate DPS officials often choose to bypass Panhandle state courts in exchange for Amarillo’s federal court when the largest amounts of money are at stake. It’s a decision that has left some I-40 district attorneys frustrated and raised concerns the federal court route gives DPS an easier and larger payday at the expense of local counties and taxpayers.

Of course, none of that money should even come close to going to any law enforcement or court agency. It is a perversion of the justice system to have law enforcement policy and enforcement/prosecution decisions potentially influenced by how much money could end up coming to the agency.

If I was President (and no, that’s not likely to happen), this is one reform I think I could take on even without Congress (because of course no Congress is likely to agree with what I would do). Just an Executive Order. You see, currently, the feds offer an 80-20 split (80 going to the state law enforcement agency) when they’re involved in an asset forfeiture case. This provides incentive for agencies to involve the feds, because they get to have more money (often bypassing state law that requires it to be used for other things).

My Executive Order would direct how seized funds in joint federal-local actions would be handled:

  1. In states where there is a mechanism for seized funds to go to a non-law enforcement purpose (ie, education, etc.), then the state will get the 80% (with funds going directly to the state for that purpose, not to the law enforcement agency).
  2. In states where there is no qualified mechanism for insuring that seized funds don’t go to law enforcement, then the federal government keeps 100%.
  3. All federal seized funds go to deficit reduction.

This would encourage states to have a non-law enforcement seizure distribution method in order to get the most money, while eliminating the perverse incentive of law enforcement to make decisions based on the cash they might get.

Of course, there’s more reform in this area needed. At the least, asset forfeiture should require that the property owner be convicted of a crime and that prosecution proves the assets were ill-gotten gains of that crime, but that kind of reform would also require Congressional action.

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16 Responses to Distribution of wealth on I-40

  1. darkcycle says:

    Oh. Uhhhhh. I turned this thing on today and dialed up the Rant…and found this post. Right next to a recruiting ad for the FBI. Showing a generic thug in vest and web-gear. Very complete, pistol out, flashlight in hand….
    I think it’s great that they are funding your site (giggle), but that’s an image I have a hard time with first thing in the morning,….if you get my drift.

  2. Ben Mann says:

    This sounds like a job for!!!

  3. Pingback: Tweets that mention Distribution of wealth on I-40 - Drug WarRant -- Topsy.com

  4. No doubt that forfeiture laws, both state and federal, turn
    our system on its head. In as many as 80% of forfeiture cases filed in Texas state courts, there is NO criminal charge filed associated with the forfeiture case.

    That means that folks who are not charged with a crime still have to come into court to try to regain their property.

    Charles B. “Brad” Frye
    Houston, Texas

  5. darkcycle says:

    Even worse, Mr. Frye, To regain one’s possessions after forfeiture, normal jurisprudence does not apply. Rather than prove the assets were obtained with criminal proceeds, it is incumbent upon the victim of seizure to prove that they WEREN’T. Proving a negative is impossible, so barring any obvious wrongdoing on the part of those siezing your assets, you’re S.O.L.

  6. DdC says:


    In a public input meeting our county actually “discussed” giving eradicated pot to dispensaries to lower the cost for the poor. Discussed. I haven’t seen it in writing. DEAth “maverick” won’t stop pillaging the public and if they can’t geterdone by stealing maybe censoring the internet… again.

    Santa Cruz County
    Board of Supervisors Agenda
    Governmental Center Building
    701 Ocean Street, Room 525, Santa Cruz, CA
    November 9, 2010

    46. Public hearing to consider extension of Interim Ordinance No. 5075 for a period of 10 months and 15 days to prohibit the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries and production houses in the unincorporated area of Santa Cruz County and to consider in concept an ordinance amending Section 13.10,700-M and Section 13.10.332 (B) and adding Section 13.10.670 of the Santa Cruz County Code Relating to the Regulation of Medical Marijuana Cooperatives

    Obama DEA Nominee Pledges To Ignore Administration
    “As a general matter, pursuit of [federal law enforcement] priorities should not focus federal resources … on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana,” The DOJ announced on October 19, 2009. Apparently Michelle Leonhart, President Obama’s nominee to direct the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, didn’t get the memo. Speaking yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, on day one of her Senate confirmation process, Leonhart pledged to ignore the administration’s formal medical marijuana guidelines.

    The Obama Admin’s Anti-Marijuana Manifesto thread

    Pot Growers Portayed as Terroists
    Federal, state and local officials carrying out a counter-terrorism drill in Northern California Wednesday played out a scenario in which local marijuana growers set off bombs and took over the Shasta Dam, the nation’s second largest, to free an imprisoned comrade.

    Anyone seen this?

    The 19 Senators Who Voted To Censor The Internet

    * Patrick J. Leahy — Vermont
    * Herb Kohl — Wisconsin
    * Jeff Sessions — Alabama
    * Dianne Feinstein — California
    * Orrin G. Hatch — Utah
    * Russ Feingold — Wisconsin
    * Chuck Grassley — Iowa
    * Arlen Specter — Pennsylvania
    * Jon Kyl — Arizona
    * Chuck Schumer — New York
    * Lindsey Graham — South Carolina
    * Dick Durbin — Illinois
    * John Cornyn — Texas
    * Benjamin L. Cardin — Maryland
    * Tom Coburn — Oklahoma
    * Sheldon Whitehouse — Rhode Island
    * Amy Klobuchar — Minnesota
    * Al Franken — Minnesota
    * Chris Coons — Delaware

  7. darkcycle says:

    Wow. That was FAST. My last session w/ students, actual, live students is a week from Wed. I gave ’em this Wed. to travel for turkey day. New, full time, stay-at-home-dad career starts the day after. Contracting on-line for EDTS and Kaplan will fill the gaps and keep me current ed-testing wise. Boom. 1985-2010. Twenty-five years went way too frikking fast. Gonna hafta go back and maybe do some part time adult-ed stuff eventually, once the sprog is in school, I think. Nothing but dry distributions and trend analysis for awhile. Not my Fav, but hey, it goes quickly if you’re used to it.
    More time to fight the Drug War, I guess.

  8. claygooding says:

    I got mine back,except the grow lights and nutrients. And after 2 years,if no charges are filed,I will get those back too.
    The Tx forfeiture law does require a criminal charge,even if they were over some growing plants,the lights are private property and will have to be returned after 2 years.

  9. darkcycle says:

    Huh. Confiscated or forfeited? Somebody correct me if I’m wrong, but the way it works most places is the forfeited property is liquidated ASAP, and if they’re ordered to give back, they give back an assessed monetary value. The “deodand” (that’s the demon possessed money or property, yes, this is a tactic from the Witch trials directly resurrected for the drug war), must prove it’s innocence, like any witch, but as the ‘owner’ of the deodand it falls to you. Incidentally, the ‘deodand’ had special status in the witch courts, you couldn’t claim ownership based on possession. And also as a ‘being’ that is subject to a legal action of it’s very own, could, in fact NOT be owned by anyone. Except of course for the inquisitor.
    That aside, good on ys Clay. Anybody know the percentage of forfeited goods ever returned to their rightful owners?

  10. DdC says:


    Eighty percent of property forfeited to the US during the previous decade was seized from owners who were never even charged with a crime! Over $7 billion has been forfeited to the federal government since 1985.

    Over 200 federal forfeiture laws are attached to non-drug related crimes. Even a false statement on a loan application can trigger forfeiture. Physicians are subject to forfeiture of their entire assets based on a clerical errors in medicare billing. The government even tried to forfeit a farmer’s tractor for allegedly running over an endangered rat.

    In April, 2000, FEAR achieved the nation’s first major federal forfeiture law reform, the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 (CAFRA). The sponsor of the act, Rep. Henry Hyde

    “Civil asset forfeiture has allowed police to view all of America as some giant national K-Mart, where prices are not just lower, but non-existent — a sort of law enforcement ‘pick-and-don’t-pay.'”
    —U.S. Representative Henry Hyde

    Yup Henry Hyde…

  11. Servetus says:

    Forfeiture (or confiscation in legal history terms) is payday for persecutors once a persecuting society maximizes it attack on a particular group or member of that group.

    It starts with the persecuted individual being reduced in social status well beneath that of any ordinary criminal, traitor, or worm’s anus. The dominant culture goes so far as to label the persecuted as demons. They make the persecuted a scapegoat for all society’s ills.

    Scapegoating has a function. It makes it easy for leaders to blame problems on the scapegoat while ignoring real causes, and therefore any real responsibility for discovering and correcting the causes.

    For instance, contamination of drinking wells from leaking sewage made people sick in the 14th century. Christian theocrats blamed the Jews. They intentionally poisoned the wells said the theocrats. Eliminating the Jews eliminates the problem said the leaders. Except no one can ever really eliminate all the Jews, or drug users. There are too many Jews and drug users, and they’re way too sneaky. So sewage leaks continued to make people sick and die, and crazy people killed more and more Jews.

    Being stereotyped and scapegoated goes with the territory As persecution nurtures and matures it becomes conscionable to do virtually anything to the targeted individual or group. This includes treating the persecuted more severely than most other outlaws and scofflaws. A convenient and profitable type of persecution is to render victims and their families destitute.

    In all historical cases, regardless of time, place or culture, the hideous consequences of confiscation were inconceivably more costly than the profits derived from seized goods.

    The best example is Spain. Empirical, historical evidence demonstrates that the predatory and corrupting influence of confiscation disrupted Spanish commercialism and banking to the extent that the resulting economic failures were a major factor in the decline and fall of the Spanish empire. No kidding.

    Whether it’s called forfeiture or confiscation, the institution of legitimized theft is a far greater evil than the sum of its parts.

  12. Pingback: I-40, Texas’s lucrative forfeiture highway; incentive-compatible forfeiture reform « Americans for Forfeiture Reform

  13. Duncan20903 says:

    I’d vote for you Pete.

    Trouble is I’ve never once voted for the winning guy. Hard to do when you’re a Libertarian. (quit the party recently)

  14. Duncan20903 says:

    clay, doesn’t Texas not have any specific law for cultivation

    I got an important lesson in remembering how important that the things that aren’t there can be, and how hard it is to see that they’re not there, and in how inportant the things that we immediately worget can be, and how hard it can be to recall what you’ve forgotten. The wife and I go swimming at a municipal indoor pool that’s not far but a few miles up the road. About halfway there the wife slams on the brakes for no reason apparent to me and then I saw the black fellow dressed in black jaywalking, well jayrunning It’s a 40 MPH 4 lane road, lots of traffic. The car in the right lane didn’t seem like he saw the fellow until the last second and I thought I was going to get to see a pedestrian popped into the air by a car again. It really was >< that close. They actually go straight up when they get clobbered by a car at speed, at least the fellow I saw get it did. That's a decades old memory that I could stand forgetting. Then the wife says 'why is it the ones that jaywalk are always dressed in dark clothes and impossible to see?' Absurd on its face when you consider that the only ones you recall are the ones that almost get hit and it's much more likely that they're the ones that almost get hit, exactly because they are so hard to see. But if you don't recall the ones you never remembered in the first place you might decide that all jaywalkers wear dark clothes and are hard to see at night. Why would you have any reason to recall the jay walkers who cleared traffic with a hundred yards to spare, or were easily seen with reflective stripes and light clothing so you had plenty of room to slow? Anyhow I believe this maybe be the direct proximate cause of the Know Nothings thinking that potheads are losers and morons. Those are the only ones that are memorable to them. Now I used to think it was the successful 98% are in hiding, but even after being presented with examples of highly successful potheads like Willie Nelson, Ted Turner, and Tommy Chong they overlook them. Please not that I only include provable heavy tokers. To me John Wayne isn't a pothead, and Mr. Obama and Bill Clinton aren't good examples because they had left it behind before they became successful. It might be different if they advocated for us. People that smoked pot once and were disgusted, swore it off aren't potheads to me either. I even think it's absurd to include them in the number of pot users. Am I a beer drinker because I quaffed a 1/2 a beer, almost vomited because the taste is so disgusting, swore it off and haven't touched it since? Ummm, I'd say not. I'm certainly going to look at you a if I think you're an imbecile if you think that I am a beer drinker based on that. But only because that's what I'm thinking. There's no false advertising here as a matter of policy..

    When we got to the pool it struck me, for the first time in the 7 years that I've been frequenting that pool that there was something significant missing from the premises and that I had never before seen their total absence. There's not a single "no smoking sign" anywhere on the premises. I've never sen anyone smoking inside, nor have I smelled any tobacco smoke. That's a sea change in the social contract because they just expect you to not smoke inside and the patrons expect that they're not supposed to smoked inside. Back in the day when I still kept a pack of Marlboros in my shirt sleeve we would would smoke in retail stores without a second thought. Picking through the produce at the grocer's with a lit faggot in my mouth, no worries, and not a cross word from anyone as long as you used the ashtray.
    At the pool they do have ashtrays outside, but a couple of dozen feet away from the entrance in lockstep with the current further progression of smokers getting pushed further and further out, bit my bit, step by step. So how do I see that which isn't there?

    (no standard disclaimer, the above is a simply a philosophical wax job.)

  15. Duncan20903 says:

    Oh my word that’s it! Philosophical Wax! My new blogs name. No I don’t expect anyone to care.

    Scapegoats have it easy nowadays. Thousands of years ago they used to take them out back and whack them to appease the gods. That must have been way back before the religions split up and had to split up the available gods to ended up with only one god each, shucks shared custody in the case of the Jews, Protestants and Catholics.

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