US Marijuana Party

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Convict, then forfeit

Muskogee Daily Phoenix, OK

District Attorney Richard Gray said he anticipated “some glitches” in a recent audit. Missing $14,723 in forfeiture money is no glitch. It’s out-and-out mismanagement and incompetence, and calling it a glitch is a poor excuse for spin doctoring.

If someone in business or government came to Gray, who is the district attorney for Wagoner, Cherokee, Adair and Sequoyah counties, and said more than $14,000 was missing from the business or government agency, Gray would be conducting a criminal investigation, not looking for a glitch.

Beginning in the 1980s during the start of the War on Drugs, district attorneys were allowed to seize and forfeit suspects’ property that they believe may have been used in the commission of a crime.

Sometimes those suspects are never charged. Sometimes they are charged and found not guilty, but have no recourse for the return of their property. And some accuse DAs of offering and settling for lighter sentences just so they can get property and cash in exchange.

The bonanza has provided prosecutors and their drug task forces with funding to fight crime, but it has also led to the things we’re seeing, loose accounting of seized property and complaints from people that law officers are seizing property that has no part in any crime.

We have said it before — forfeitures of property should not be allowed unless a person is convicted of a crime. And any money or property forfeited from illegal activity — after a conviction — should not return to police departments or district attorney offices, but should be used in drug rehabilitation and victim compensaton.


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