Charlottesville Newsplex reports that Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) recently purchased a $750,000 “state-of-the-art field support vehicle“ with asset forfeiture funds. Whatever the wisdom of the purchase, it is curious that Virginia ABC has $750,000 in asset forfeiture funds to buy such a vehicle. In Virginia, forfeiture proceeds are constitutionally directed to Virginia’s Literary Fund unless the forfeitures somehow involve controlled substances—and controlled substance enforcement seemingly falls outside the purview of the ABC. [Virginia code does not include alcohol and tobacco as controlled substances.]
Perhaps connected, Virginia ABC apparently received three recent payments totaling slightly more than $753,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Asset Forfeiture Fund. Such payments are frequently used to evade state laws directing forfeitures to education. The process, known as equitable sharing, permits state agencies (including those otherwise restricted from profiting on forfeitures) to give seizures to federal authorities. Federal authorities, in exchange, forfeit the property and give a percentage of the proceeds (frequently 80%) to the agency that brought the seizure.
In short, equitable sharing permits some Virginia law enforcement agencies to profit from seizing stuff when they otherwise wouldn’t be able to profit and it rewards the Feds with often sizable processing fees for diverting most of the money back to the seizing agency instead of the education fund. This occurs while Virginia navigates education fund deficits, cuts to education spending, and while Virginians face higher taxes to staunch such deficits. One needn’t even be opposed to forfeiture to see the stupidity in this.
Here, as is often the case, we aren’t privy to all the details. Perhaps this isn’t a case of Virginia shipping money out-of-state to avoid its laws even while it struggles to fund its commitments. Still, it would be somewhat surprising for this agency, without obvious connection to drug enforcement, to enjoy an asset forfeiture fund bankroll sufficient to afford the purchase of a $750,000 state-of-the-art field support vehicle without the equitable sharing program.