Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown has come out against new legislation that could potentially cost the county thousands in seized drug investigations, and give control to the county’s commissioners to determine what law enforcement purposes the funds could be used for.
"Forfeiture laws represent one of the most serious assaults on private property rights in the nation," said State Representative Wendell Willard of Sandy Springs, who authored the bill. "This bill will protect due process, transparency and create better accountability."
The Georgia Sheriff’s Association has come out against the bill, saying it was "vigorously opposed by the sheriffs of Georgia."
Brown concurred, saying he supported the Georgia Sheriff’s Association in this situation.
"We know firsthand we’ve never had a problem with spending the funds inappropriately and we’ve always managed to work with the Board of Commissioners," Brown said. "There are times when purchases are needed right away, and by doing this we would have to back before the board [of commissioners] and request requisitions, and the way it’s handled now, we can take care of those costs as we need to. It is much simpler when the sheriffs have control over it. We’ve worked closely with the board in the past and there’s never been an error, but it takes another level, and we as sheriffs know how best to spend those funds."
Federal law stipulates that law enforcement agencies can use seized money for capital projects, training or equipment. The money must first go through the forfeiture process, since criminal forfeitures are tied to the criminal case. Forfeitures must be included in the indictment of a person, which means the grand jury must find basis for it.