Civil forfeitures trend upward in Walker County

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a crimp on the nation’s economy, but it has not reduced the number of civil asset forfeiture cases in Walker County.

The number of civil asset forfeiture seizure funds from the 2019-20 fiscal year was increased by more than 133 percent compared to the same time last year, according to an examination of the county’s civil asset forfeiture annual report.

Over the county’s prior fiscal year, which ended in September, there were 16 new petitions filed compared with the same time last year, when there were only eight new entries. This accounted for $164,523 in potential forfeiture funds, as compared to $32,599 the prior year.

Under current law, law enforcement agencies simply are required to connect property to a crime to seize it and can use the proceeds from it once it is forfeited to them to supplement their budgets. Property owners must prove in a civil court their property was not involved with or the proceeds of a crime, which usually is drug related. If they are unsuccessful then that property will be forfeited to the law enforcement agency.

In the 2019-20 fiscal year, Walker County received $8,060 in forfeited funds, while spending over $15,000 in forfeited funds. The expenditures included $6,494 in equipment purchases, $2,032 in office supplies, $4,635 in travel, $1,054 in facility costs and $864 in training costs.