Increasingly, state and local law enforcement agencies are collaborating with the Justice Department to circumvent restrictions on civil forfeiture proceeds, charges the libertarian Institute for Justice, reports MainJustice.com. Under “equitable sharing,” state law enforcement agencies turn over seized assets to the federal government or seize them jointly with federal officers. Federal law allows up to 80 percent of the proceeds to be funneled back to the state law enforcement, even in states that require the money to be diverted to non-law enforcement purposes, such as education.
The institute says “a substantial number” of law enforcement agencies have grown dependent on civil forfeiture proceeds. National Public Radio reported in 2008 that some Texas sheriffs' departments rely on forfeited money for up to one-third of their budget. In states with strings attached to civil forfeiture proceeds, law enforcement agencies have turned to the federal government in greater numbers. Equitable sharing payments to states nearly doubled from 2000 to 2008 – from a little more than $200 million to $400 million – and the trend is pronounced in states that limit the use of proceeds from civil forfeitures, says the institute’s report, “Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture.” “This willingness to really defy elected officials at the state and local level is outrageous,” said report author Scott Bullock.