Friday, February 13, 2009

DA's overreliance on asset forfeiture income violates the law

Having written the other day about asset forfeiture abuses, I was pleased to do a TV interview yesterday with a local reporter from the Valley who was in Austin doing an investigative feature on the topic. Without queering his scoop (which I'll be sure to link to when his story runs), I was shocked when he showed me documentation of a District Attorney's office that received fully 1/3 of its annual budget, including salaries, from asset forfeiture income.

It strikes me that the commissioners court in that county is violating Texas' asset forfeiture law, which reads in relevant part:
"A commissioners court or governing body of a municipality may not use the existence of an award to offset or decrease total salaries, expenses, and allowances that the agency or the attorney receives from the commissioners court or governing body at or after the time the proceeds are awarded. The head of the agency or attorney representing the state may not use the existence of an award to increase a salary, expense, or allowance for an employee of the attorney or agency who is budgeted by the commissioners court or governing body unless the commissioners court or governing body first approves the expenditure."
The Senate Criminal Justice Committee's report (pdf) on the topic alluded to this practice, declaring, "Unfortunately, the under-funding of these offices have led many to use Chapter 59 [asset forfeiture] funds as a necessity to cover expenses and provide needed services to their communities without placing pressure on state and local officials to provide adequate funding" (pp 66-67).

That's not just "unfortunate," though - under this provision of the statute, the correct adverb would be "illegally." What's unfortunate is that there's no meaningful oversight of forfeited funds and no prosecution when government officials break the law.

An agency that reliant on forfeiture money has zero incentive to reduce drug smuggling in their community. In fact, if drug smuggling were to end tomorrow, the local DA couldn't make his payroll.


Anonymous said...

But But But, Think of the Children, It's Reefer-Madness, Take a bite outta crime!!!

Come on Grits, we all know how it works. Officials get caught red-handed too often to say they were all one-offs. And all that needs to be said is that which I started this off with. THe public at large are easily twisted to believe such utter BS, when they are shown the true light of our elected and appointed officials. Total Corruption is easily hid when you find a fear based buzz word..

'Sex Offenders cannot be cured, that is why I took granny's car and sold it so I could get my bonus this year!!!'

Anonymous said...

You missed this story about the former Sheriff of Harris County:

Spending Spree After Sheriff's Defeat Leads To Money Concerns

Anonymous said...


Any news worth reporting, Scott?