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Colorado governor cuts allowable asset seizure amount

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed a new law that cuts the amount of money local law enforcement agencies and task forces can receive from federal asset seizures. According to the governor, the new law will address potential abuses, including keeping "assets seized from innocent people."

During the past year, the regional drug task force, known as Metro Vice, Narcotics and Intelligence (VNI), received more than $200,000 by participating in federal investigations that target prostitution rings and drug dealers. The amount that was received from using the state process was only about $67,000 since 2012.

The state law requires the government to prove that the asset's owner knew that the property was not obtained legally. The federal process requires the property owner to prove that the assets were obtained by legal means. The new law means that police agencies cannot share in any revenues from federal seizures worth less than $50,000. That will eliminate as much as 85 percent of the money received from federal government seizures.

According to the chief of the Colorado Spring Police Department, "The money that was used in the past to shut down these illegal operations is not going to be there most of the time. It's going to make participation in some of these federal investigations difficult."

Those who support the law say that the new threshold will ensure that law enforcement groups focus their attention on large-scale criminal enterprises. Those who oppose the new law say that it will cripple their budgets used to fight crime.

Not all the money goes into fighting crime. According to the police chief, the money has also been used to provide Colorado Springs police officers with Narcan, which is used to stop an opiate overdose.

While it is not known how much this new law will affect law enforcement investigations in the future, it could mean that fewer people will see their assets seized when they have done nothing wrong.

If you have had an asset seized as a result of a law enforcement investigation, your attorney can provide information on how you can fight to get your assets back.

Source: The Gazette, "Asset forfeiture change costly for Colorado Springs-area drug agencies," Lance Benzel and Rachel Riley, June 15, 2017

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