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Op-ed on Missouri forfeitures

On September 6, 2010, in Uncategorized, by Eapen Thampy

The Columbia Tribune published my op-ed on Missouri’s civil forfeiture problem on Sunday. Missouri is unique in that the forfeiture system is better documented than in most states, partially because of then State Auditor’s seminal audit on civil forfeitures in 1999 and Karen Dillon’s investigative series in the Kansas City Star over the following year or so.

A key contention I make is that despite the reform efforts in Missouri and on the national level ten years ago, problems with the forfeiture laws persist and have only gotten bigger with time. In Missouri, this is a significant problem with very tangible results:

Nine years after these reforms, a number of problems have re-emerged. First, the transfer of forfeitures to the federal government has continued unabated as circuit court judges often rubber-stamp law enforcement requests. Second, the requirement that circuit court approval be granted is unenforceable; often, property goes to federal law enforcement agents who can execute the forfeiture directly without judicial approval. The amount of money that ends up being misappropriated this way is substantial. In 2008 and 2009, state and federal law enforcement retained well more than $50 million in direct circumvention of Missouri law at the expense of Missouri schools.

The rest of the op-ed is here.

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