Georgia Forfeiture

Shining the Light on Georgia's Law Enforcement Slush Funds
Van Meter v. Turner

Map: Limited Forfeiture Accountability States Where Little or No Forfeiture Data Is Available 

Civil forfeiture threatens the property rights of all Americans.  These laws allow the police to seize your home, car, cash or other property upon the mere suspicion that it has been used or involved in criminal activity. 

Georgia has some of the worst civil forfeiture laws in the country.  But, in an attempt to at least ensure civil forfeiture is subject to public scrutiny, state law requires local law enforcement agencies to annually itemize and report all property obtained through forfeiture, and what they did with it, to their local governing authorities.

Amazingly, many, perhaps most, local law enforcement agencies simply fail to issue these forfeiture reports.  For these agencies, their forfeiture proceeds are “off budget” slush funds shielded from public view.  Until the Institute for Justice filed a lawsuit the Atlanta Police Department, Fulton County Police Department, and Fulton County Sheriff all regularly failed to produce mandated forfeiture reports. 

This dereliction of duty concerns Georgia citizens, including  Ryan Van Meter, Anna Cuthrell, Joseph Kidd, Josiah Neff and Tsvetelin Tsonevski, all taxpaying residents of Atlanta and Fulton County.  They filed this lawsuit to force the head officers of these three local law enforcement agencies to disclose all of the property they have seized under applicable Georgian forfeiture statues along with how they have utilized that property, preventing that property from becoming a slush fund.  The issue of the case was not complicated: Law enforcement should follow the law.

Faced with no way out, all three agencies agreed to comply with state law, both for past reports and going forward, and submitted to court orders forcing them to do so.  With this victory, the Institute for Justice was able to shed some light on the dark world of civil forfeiture.


Essential Background


Backgrounder: Shining the Light on Law Enforcement Slush Funds: Lawsuit Calls for Georgia Police to Follow the Law and Report Property Seized Through Civil Forfeiture

Client Photo - none available

Video: Georgia Law Enforcement Often Refuses to Report Forfeiture Funds, a Violation of GA Law

Launch Release: Major Lawsuit Filed Today Seeks to Shine Light On Georgia Law Enforcement Slush Funds (March 30, 2011)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

Consent Judgment with Fulton County Police Department and Sheriff (PDF)

Consent Judgment with Atlanta Police Department (PDF)
Latest Release: Hearing Today Whether the Atlanta Police Department Can Shield its Practices from Public View (June 14, 2011)

Case Timeline

      Filed Lawsuit:

March 30, 2011
Court Filed: Fulton County Superior Court
Decision: Victory on June 14, 2001; defendants all agree to submit past and future forfeiture reports.  Court subsequently enters judgment forcing them to do so.
Current Court: Fulton County Superior Court
Status: Complete

Additional Releases

Reports, Maps, Charts and Facts

none available



Op-eds, News Articles and Links


Article: Forfeiting Accountability: Georgia Lawsuit Targets Hidden Civil Forfeiture Funds; Liberty & Law (June 2011)

Video: Forfeiture Abuse: Even Your Drums Aren't Safe From the Police; (February 28, 2011)

Video: Fox Business: IJ's Scott Bullock discusses "policing for profit" with David Asman; (August 10, 2010)



Video: Policing for Profit - The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture; (March 30, 2010)

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