US Marijuana Party

Monday, June 12, 2006

Items seized during busts proving useful in war on drugs

Phillip Ramati
Macon Telegraph, GA

Last month, drug investigators from the Bibb County and Monroe County sheriff's departments unveiled what they seized during a major marijuana bust.

Along with the drugs, weapons and cash the suspect had with him, officers seized a 2002 Ford F-150 pickup, a Yamaha four-wheel all-terrain vehicle, three brand-new flat-screen TVs, DVD players, VCRs, a home-theater system and video game systems - about $30,000 worth of merchandise.

Those vehicles, electronics and cash seizures will eventually be used to continue the war on drugs.

Some think that the current system is unfair to the person whose stuff is seized and is later found not guilty of the criminal charges.

"In my opinion, no, I don't think it's fair," said Macon attorney Franklin Hogue. "I have two cases pending right now where it's that exact thing. The police come into a garage with a drug case, and they seize every tool they can pick up and carry. Wrenches, welders, things a guy could have had for years, things that might have been passed down, they take it as though it was purchased with drug money.

"If you don't get a lawyer to answer the civil complaint, they can keep that stuff. The person is ... accused of a crime that could send him to prison. They're not as worried about the property."

Hogue thinks that the system could be bent by law enforcement officials.

"It provides incentives to the police to become aggressive in pursuing cases even when the criminal case is weak," he said.

Even a minor traffic stop could result in cash being seized, he said.

"The cash is then gone, and the burden of proof shifts to the driver to prove to the court that it could be traced to legitimate sources," he said.


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