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Archive for Monday, January 27, 2014

Douglas County court processing more cash seized by law enforcement

January 27, 2014

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Law enforcement in Kansas can seize property from people suspected of these offenses:

• Violations involving controlled substances

• Theft

• Criminal discharge of a firearm

• Gambling

• Counterfeiting

• Unlawful possession of a scanning device or re-encoder

• Medicaid fraud

• Furtherance of terrorism or illegal use of weapons of mass destruction

• Unlawful conduct of dogfighting and unlawful possession of dogfighting paraphernalia

• Unlawful conduct of cockfighting and unlawful possession of cockfighting paraphernalia

• Prostitution

• Human trafficking and aggravated human trafficking

• Violations of the banking code

• Mistreatment of a dependent adult

• Giving a worthless check

• Forgery

• Making false information

• Criminal use of a financial card

• Unlawful acts concerning computers

• Identity theft and identity fraud

• Electronic solicitation

• Felony violations of fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer

For more, see kslegislature.org

Douglas County is processing more than four times the amount of seized cash in civil forfeiture cases three years after its district attorney bolstered seizure efforts.

Last year, $263,174, much of it seized along with drugs or weapons, made its way through district court. The amount was nearly double the $136,362 seized in 2012 and more than four times the $62,565 seized in 2010, the year before Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson appointed an attorney to focus on civil forfeitures.

A Kansas law authorizes police to seize assets from anyone suspected of one of about two dozen crimes. Officers can seize property without a prosecution or conviction related to the offense. In Douglas County, Branson said, most forfeitures processed stem from drug busts conducted by the Lawrence-Douglas County Drug Enforcement unit. In 2013, the unit was also responsible for the seizure of 5,682 grams of marijuana and about 24 pounds of methamphetamine.

Seized drugs and weapons become part of criminal cases and are typically destroyed by police unless needed for evidence during prosecution, Branson said. Cash and other items are processed by courts as civil cases and, if not claimed, are awarded to the agency that seized them, with 15 percent going to the district attorney’s office for processing the cases. In most cases, Branson said, money seized with drugs goes unclaimed.

“Once we have seized assets suspected to be drug proceeds, then it is on them to prove that they are not and that they have a legal means of having what was seized,” Branson said.

Seized funds can’t be used by government agencies for expenses such as salary enhancements. Instead, Branson’s office uses the money to fund staff training or to provide agencies such as Lawrence Memorial Hospital with equipment such as that used to exam sexual assault victims. According to Branson, the fund has grown from roughly $20,000 when he took office in 2005 to about $70,000 today. He said appointing a civil appellate attorney, Patrick Hurley, experienced with dealing with seizure cases, has helped process more civil forfeitures since 2011.

The drug unit repurposes seized vehicles for use during investigations and has used proceeds to buy equipment such as encrypted radios not detectable by scanners, said Sgt. Trent McKinley, a department spokesman.

A 2010 report by the Institute for Justice, a non-profit law firm, criticized Kansas’ seizure law as “placing an excessive burden on property owners” and “providing a strong profit incentive for law enforcement agencies.” Branson said he has taken a conservative approach. “We’re not out there trying to forfeit strange things or to set traps for people,” he said.

Comments

Brion Eduardo 6 months, 3 weeks ago

“'Once we have seized assets suspected to be drug proceeds, then it is on them to prove that they are not and that they have a legal means of having what was seized,' Branson said."

What District Attorney Charles Branson is doing is a form of legalized theft. Stealing is stealing, even if it has Big Brothers approval. Many of us are working tirelessly to end the travesties, despite opposition from the far right, the far left, and the Lawrence Journal World. By admonishing lawmakers not to institute cannabis law reform, the LJW helps to perpetuate the conditions under which these forceful deprivations of property occur.

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