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3/1/2007
North Dakota Gives Police Profit Incentive for Property Seizure
North Dakota legislature approves measure allowing police to keep seized cash.

North Dakota legislature
Police in North Dakota will soon have a direct financial incentive to seize cars and cash from motorists. By an 88-2 vote in the state House and a 27-20 vote in the Senate, the legislature this week moved to create an account allowing the highway patrol to keep up to $300,000 in cash and property taken from drivers in a two-year period.

The Highway Patrol will be able to use this money to buy high-tech equipment and pay overtime cash bonuses to individual police officers involved in the confiscation.

Following a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit decision last August, North Dakota Highway Patrol members will be able to take money from any motorist driving with a large amount of cash, even if there is no evidence that a crime has been committed.

"Possession of a large sum of cash is 'strong evidence' of a connection to drug activity," the court ruled in allowing the seizure of $127,400 from a man who was neither accused, tried nor convicted of any crime.

States such as Utah have moved away from allowing police to accept rewards for property seizure. In 2000, nearly seventy percent of the state's voters approved a referendum directing all confiscation proceeds to victims of crime and education to remove the profit incentive from law enforcement.

"Prosecutors hated this requirement because under the old law, they were able to keep forfeiture proceeds for their own use," the Institute for Justice website explains. "Utah law enforcement officials tried to defeat the initiative at the polls, then in court. Both efforts failed."

The North Dakota proposal will become law if signed by the governor.

Article Excerpt:
Sixtieth Legislative Assembly of North Dakota
In Regular Session Commencing Wednesday, January 3, 2007

HOUSE BILL NO. 1064
(Transportation Committee)
(At the request of the Highway Patrol)

AN ACT to create and enact a new section to chapter 39-03 of the North Dakota Century Code, relating to creation of the highway patrol assets forfeiture fund; and to provide a continuing appropriation.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF NORTH DAKOTA:

SECTION 1. A new section to chapter 39-03 of the North Dakota Century Code is created and enacted as follows:

Highway patrol - Assets forfeiture fund - Purpose - Continuing appropriation. There is created a fund to be known as the highway patrol assets forfeiture fund. The fund consists of funds obtained from moneys, assets, and proceeds seized and forfeited pursuant to section 19-03.1-36, amounts received through court proceedings as restitution, amounts remaining from the forfeiture of property after the payment of expenses for forfeiture and sale authorized by law, and funds received from federal shared forfeiture proceedings. The total amount of deposits into the fund may not exceed three hundred thousand dollars within a biennium and any moneys in excess of that amount must be deposited in the general fund. The funds are appropriated as a continuing appropriation to the highway patrol for the following purposes:

1. For paying expenses necessary to inventory, safeguard, maintain, advertise, or sell property seized, detained, or forfeited, pursuant to section 19-03.1-36, or of any other necessary expenses incident to the seizure, detention, or forfeiture of the property.

2. For paying overtime compensation incurred as a result of investigations or violations of any state criminal law or law relating to the control of drug abuse.

3. For purchasing equipment related to criminal interdiction.

4. For paying matching funds required as a condition for receipt of funds from a federal government program awarding monetary grants or assistance for the investigation or apprehension of persons violating the provisions of chapter 19-03.1. The superintendent of the highway patrol, with the concurrence of the director of the office of management and budget, shall establish the necessary accounting procedures for the use of the fund and shall personally approve, in writing, all requests for the use of the fund.


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