IBJNews

Indiana judge dismisses lawsuit over forfeiture funds

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

An Indianapolis judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit that accused 78 county prosecutors of breaking the law by not turning over assets seized from criminals to a state school fund.

Marion Superior Judge Tim Oakes said in his ruling that the suit filed under Indiana's whistleblower law was moot in part because the state already knew about the issue.

State law currently allows law enforcement agencies to keep a portion of seized funds to cover "law enforcement costs" and give the rest to the common school fund, which helps pay for school construction. But the amounts are up to prosecutors' discretion.

While Oakes threw out the suit, he said the system should be reviewed.

"The merits of the issue at the heart of the matter do not deserve to be ignored," Oakes wrote. "Little, if any, logical assessment — much less consistent assessment — appear to enter the prosecutors' minds as they determine their take for pursuing the forfeiture actions."

Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who defended the prosecutors, agreed.

"Having issued our own legal opinion months before this suit was filed, we agree with the court that the system of forfeitures in Indiana is in need of consistency and should be reviewed," Zoeller said in a statement.

He said the Legislature currently is considering a bill that would change how forfeitures are handled.

"The details are being refined by the Legislature, but I support creating a clear, unambiguous method of calculating the civil forfeiture funds that law enforcement and schools can receive," Zoeller said.

ADVERTISEMENT

  • Don't blame IBJ
    Mr. Ogden, this is an Associated Press article.
  • Unconstitutional
    Unfortunately the IBJ overlooked the major part of the opinion in which Judge Oakes proceeds to state that the civil forfeiture statute itself quite likely violates the Constitution, and directly refutes the AG's advisory opinion on the issue where the AG attempts to make some distinction between "civil" and "criminal" forfeiture.

    Unfortunately AG Zoeller has not cooperated in our attempts to enforce the existing civil forfeiture law or seek an accounting of the millions of dollars that has been misappropriated over the years. As a result, we may simply amend the complaint to include the constitutionality claim and have the entire civil forfeiture law struck down as unconstitutional.

    Paul K. Ogden
    ROBERTS & BISHOP

    Post a comment to this story

    COMMENTS POLICY
    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
     
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
     
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
     
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
     
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
     

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by
    ADVERTISEMENT

    facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
     
    Subscribe to IBJ
    ADVERTISEMENT