LEWISTON – Police in the north-central Idaho city of Lewiston seized more cash, cars and property last year under Idaho’s drug forfeiture laws.
The number of property seizures by Lewiston law enforcement totaled 27 last year, compared with 16 the previous year and just seven in 2014, Lewiston Tribune reported.
Lewiston police Lt. Budd Hurd said the numbers are up because his detectives are more focused on asset seizure than they were in the past.
“It used to be, detectives didn’t want to do the paperwork,” Hurd said. “We have guys now that don’t mind doing it.”
Idaho law allows law enforcement agencies to claim property or cash if it was used in the transport of drugs or purchased with drug money. Because it’s a civil procedure, a criminal conviction isn’t required – so in some cases, the property can be seized even if someone isn’t convicted of a drug crime.
Critics of the asset forfeiture rules have argued that amounts to a government overreach, but so far efforts to change the law haven’t gained much traction.
Nez Perce County Prosecutor Justin Coleman said his office often waits for the associated criminal case to be adjudicated before seizing assets, although timeliness is also a factor in filing forfeiture cases. “Our preference is to let the criminal case be adjudicated,” Coleman said.
Although the standard for remedying a civil case is not as stringent as in criminal court, Coleman said the standards apply to civil cases across the board, and the standards must be met before any property changes hands.
“It’s not that the state can just seize property and take it,” he said. “The state still has to establish all the elements.”
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