asset forfeiture and one form of government theft in Indiana
Radley Balko in Reason on asset forfeiture in Indiana-- after a February feature story on civil asset forfeiture-- "the process by which law enforcement groups can seize property, usually in drug cases, sometimes without ever charging anyone with a crime."
Indiana is one of several states that require civil asset forfeiture proceeds to go to a fund for public schools. Many states passed such laws in the late 1990s after media and public backlashes against civil forfeiture abuse. The states saw the funds as a way to remedy the incentive problems that arise when police and prosecutorial offices benefit directly from the money they seize. In Indiana, the requirement is actually written into the state's constitution.
But there are ways around these requirements...Given all of these ways around the law, how much forfeiture money is actually getting back to the school fund in Indiana? Almost none.
Balko refers to work by reporters at the Indianapolis Star (here-- and since then, here and here) and Indiana attorney/blogger, Paul Ogden, who "beat the paper to the story by several weeks". Ogden found:
- Of Indiana's 92 counties, just five have paid any forfeiture money into the school fund over the last two years. Three of those made just one payment. One county made a single payment of $84.50. Only one county could arguably be seen as complying with the law: Wayne County made 18 payments totaling $38,835.56.
- The total amount of forfeiture money paid into the account from all 92 Indiana counties over the two-year period was just $95,509.72.
Civil asset forfeiture is an unjust, unfair practice under any circumstance. The idea that the government can take someone's property on the legal fiction that property itself can be guilty of a crime is an invitation to corruption...What's happening in Indiana, where the entire legal system is essentially ignoring the spirit if not the outright letter of state law, only confirms that once you give government license to steal, it's very difficult to wrest it back.