Saturday, December 10, 2016

Priorities, choices, and poor drug-war outcomes

What a world we live in.

Asset forfeiture by the government now takes more money from people than burglars and the number of heroin deaths has surpassed gun homicides.

Can't blame Donald Trump for that, huh?

OTOH, one recalls that Gov. Greg Abbott last session vetoed "Good Samaritan" legislation which would have prevented prosecution of people who called 911 during an overdose, stayed with the victim, and cooperated with police. That would have helped prevent overdose deaths. When the bill comes back this time in the 85th Texas Legislature, they should pass it again and Greg Abbott should sign it.

In a related, poor state policy decision which likely resulted in more heroin deaths, the Texas Department of State Health Services recently failed to solicit a federal grant to pay for first responders to have access to Naloxone, an opiod antagonist with no significant side effects which can keep overdose victims from dying.

Similarly, the Lege has an opportunity this session to rein in asset forfeitures by law enforcement which are unrelated to a criminal conviction. The Texas Public Policy Foundation this week published a myth-busting document explaining why they can and should do so.

These sorts of statistics aren't just things that happen in the world, they're a result of government priorities and policy choices. If we want different outcomes, government must change both.


Anonymous said...

TPPF….Working hard to put the profit back into crime!!!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

When people are convicted of crimes, TPPF supports seizing related assets. When the government can't prove a crime, though, they shouldn't still get to take your money!

Anonymous said...

Curious--and typical-- that the article has to cite a case out of Oklahoma where the underlying crime alleged is not even an offense in Texas. The TPPF plan should also be called the "let's abolish deferred adjudication plan." LOL!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

10:55, I know in the presidential campaign it became de rigeur to just tell lies, ignore facts, and promote anonymous slurs to impugn one's opponents, but we don't do that here. If you have an argument to support why TPPF would end deferred adjudication, make it. But if you continue just trolling I'll delete your blather. Nobody reading this blog has time for that.

As for Texas examples, Google "Tenaha, forfeiture" and read what comes up. In fact, I'll make it easy for you.

BarkGrowlBite said...

I fully agree that when a defendant is acquitted, his seized assets should be returned to him.

As for your consistent complaints about the drug war, in the Philippines, unlike in the U.S., the overwhelming majority of people oppose the use of any illegal drugs, including pot, and approve the government’s ‘take no prisoners’ war on drugs that has left 5,800 dead since July 1.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Hell, BGB, often the property owners are never charged! Civil forfeiture standard is "preponderance," criminal is "beyond a reasonable doubt." Often no effort even to appear to try for the higher one. The law doesn't require it.

Anonymous said...

Grits, if we're going to require a conviction as a prerequisite to a forfeiture, wouldn't that necessarily create incentives for prosecutors not to offer a deferred adjudication community supervision. On a broader level, wouldn't tying forfeitures to a conviction create an extra financial incentive for prosecutors to seek indictments and convictions in marginal cases? I can envision the existence of a potential forfeiture becoming a key consideration in many plea bargain discussions.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

3:03, you seem to think they're not getting convictions because they're lazy. IMO, usually it's just because because the evidence doesn't exist to meet the higher standard. Clearly, my view of prosecutorial ethics and standards isn't as low as your own, but perhaps you're right that they're money-grubbing schmucks driven solely by the profit motive. I tend to think of them as bureaucrats responding to rational incentives (and thus likely to be responsive if the Lege changes those incentives). But I suppose it's possible things are as bad as you project.

Just in case you're right, any reforms should include a provision disallowing prosecutors from resolving asset forfeiture litigation as part of a plea deal. Those should be separate.

d said...

I appreciate Grits always connecting poor policy choices with bad outcomes for Texans. Indeed, these outcomes are not just things that happen.