Where does the money go from civil forfeiture?

Cash and property seized through federal civil forfeiture proceedings end up in special funds in either the federal Department of Justice or the Department of the Treasury, which dispense the funds to law enforcement agencies according to a long set of rules.

The Department of Justice fund is handled through its Justice Management Division, which can award up to 80 percent of the proceeds of any drug-related forfeiture to the local law enforcement agencies that participated in the case.

The local agencies can receive what is referred to as "equitable sharing" based on how much work they put into the case, federal records show. The local agencies must fill out reports that detail how many hours their employees put into the case.

Medford Police Department records show it received $28,904 from federal forfeitures in 2011 and $15,629 so far in 2012. However, more cases remain in the pipeline for each year, which could result in more money, says Medford police Lt. Brett Johnson, who runs the Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement task force handling drug-seizure cases.

That money by law cannot be used for salaries or other personnel costs, but it can be used for equipment.

Money kept by federal agencies is also restricted that way, but the U.S. Congress has the authority to take forfeiture proceeds for other uses, such as the building of federal prisons.

In state forfeiture cases, which require criminal convictions, local law enforcement can receive up to 40 percent of the proceeds.

— Mark Freeman

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