ARLINGTON, Va.—The Institute for Justice (IJ), a non-profit public interest law firm that protects property rights nationwide, called on New York lawmakers to eliminate civil forfeiture following reports that an Albany County sheriff’s employee was arrested for using funds to pay gambling debts. John Cox, head of the sheriff’s business office, is accused of siphoning more than $68,000 from the department’s federal forfeiture funds account.
“The misuse of forfeiture funds is shockingly common because civil forfeiture is inherently abusive and non-transparent,” said IJ Senior Legislative Counsel Lee McGrath. “In just the past few years, we’ve seen a Pennsylvania deputy steal $200,000 from a safe, a Michigan prosecutor embezzle $600,000 in funds, and widespread problems with forfeiture reports in states like Kansas and Oklahoma.
“Civil forfeiture typically lets law enforcement keep and spend the money it seizes, creating a powerful profit incentive. New York should join states like New Mexico and Maine by passing bills introduced in the Senate and House that would eliminate civil forfeiture and instead properly confiscate ill-gotten gains through a criminal process. Research shows that despite law enforcement claims that civil forfeiture is a crime-fighting tool, eliminating it does not increase crime.”