Newsbrief: Hungry Utah Cops Nibbling at Edges of Asset Forfeiture Reform Law, Lying Through Their Teeth as They Campaign 11/15/02

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Already defeated at the ballot box and in the federal courts, Utah law enforcement agencies and prosecutors are turning to the state legislature to attempt to undo the asset forfeiture reforms passed overwhelmingly by voters in 2000. And they're telling whoppers as they do so.

Prosecutors and law enforcement are working with state legislators to craft bills that would nibble at the edges of the Utah's asset forfeiture reforms in advance of the upcoming legislative session. A subcommittee of the state's Commission on Crime and Criminal Justice has already drafted some "fixes" of the law, the Deseret News reported Sunday.

Cops and prosecutors complain that the reforms have cost them more than $2.5 million from what would have been their share of federal asset forfeitures from drug offenders, and the Deseret News led with that assertion. Too bad it's wrong. "That is an outright lie," said Dave Fratello of the Campaign for New Drug Policies (, the group that spearheaded the successful reform campaign. "There is no way Utah law enforcement lost $2.5 million from this reform. They averaged about $200,000 per year in federal forfeiture sharing in recent years."

The feds did seize $2.6 million in the last two fiscal years, but most of those cases were initiated by the feds, and under the previous law, state law enforcement agencies were only entitled to a share of proceeds from cases they initiated, thus the much smaller (and more accurate) figure supplied by Fratello.

Prosecutors also complain that the strict liability requirement on law enforcement have brought asset forfeitures in the state to a standstill. "State forfeitures came almost to a halt because there were so many problems the initiative created," Kirk Torgerson of the Attorney General's office told the Deseret News. He cited the provision requiring law enforcement agencies to pay all attorneys' costs in cases where seized goods end up being returned to their owners.

"Are we surprised that the cops are lying to set a pretext for overturning the reforms? No," said Fratello. "Are we watching carefully to ensure the reforms remain intact? Yes."

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Issue #263, 11/15/02 The Week Online Needs Your Help! | Massachusetts: Marijuana on the Move? | Anaheim Conference Reinvigorates Battered Reformers -- Hundreds Gather to Examine Defeats, Plot New Strategies | Narco News Interview with Gustavo de Greiff | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story | Newsbrief: FCC Says Anti-Drug Ads Must Identify White House Sponsorship | Newsbrief: San Diego Medical Marijuana Rally to Go Transnational | Newsbrief: Hungry Utah Cops Nibbling at Edges of Asset Forfeiture Reform Law, Lying Through Their Teeth as They Campaign | Newsbrief: Free Speech Battle in Tampa after Leafleting Arrest | Newsbrief: Canada Gives Go-Ahead to Safe Injection Sites, First to Open Early Next Year | Newsbrief: Pain Doctor Hurwitz Raided in Virginia | Newsbrief: Pain Doctor Weitzel Retrial Underway in Utah | Newsbrief: Arkansas Prisons Say Methamphetamine Penalties Should Be Lowered | Newsbrief: Border Patrol Begins Random Stops in Michigan | Web Scan: Washington Office on Latin America, Andean Information Network, Latin America Working Group, Miami Herald, Harry Levine | Harm Reduction Coalition Seeking Articles and Artwork for "The Anonymous Issue" | Action Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision, Tulia, Salvia Divinorum | The Reformer's Calendar

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