Increasing concern over personal property right violations and claims of “policing for profit” have resulted in bipartisan efforts to better define Indiana’s forfeiture laws. Recent lawsuits against prosecutors, the Indianapolis Mayor, and law enforcement agencies address the timing of asset forfeiture and dispersal of proceeds.
Indiana is one of more than 10 states in recent years working to update forfeiture laws. Ten bills related to civil or criminal forfeiture have been introduced in the General Assembly this year. House Bill 1123, which has already been referred to the Senate after a unanimous vote, recommends a summer study committee on civil forfeiture laws. Since this was the first related bill to be heard and passed through committee, it seems as if the Legislature will take more time to consider this issue before adjusting legislation.
Currently, the Indiana Code requires seized dollars to be used to reimburse law enforcement and associated expenditures through General Fund accounts, with surplus dollars transferred to the Common School Fund. Instead, millions of seized dollars are reportedly shared by government offices and law enforcement agencies, supplementing appropriated monies in excess. The Indianapolis Star has more information on the issue.
Overall fiscal impacts due to forfeiture law changes are unknown, but funds allocated to law enforcement agencies, prosecuting attorneys, and the common school fund would likely decrease under new, stricter regulations. Additionally, if the “policing for profit” claim is accurate, law enforcement agencies will see fewer opportunities to benefit financially from forfeiture.