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Ill-gotten gains can wind up with several agencies

I would like to know where the "ill-gotten gains" (money seized from criminal activity, whether it be money from stolen goods or drug activity) goes once it is seized.

I'm sure a majority goes back to the arresting agency. But how much of it goes to local charities or community agencies?

— Steve C.

It's a good question, Steve, and one answered by the Oregon Revised Statutes. How forfeited property is dealt with can be found in two places: ORS 131A.350 through 131A.370, and ORS 131.588 through 131.597.

The short answer is the money can end up in a number of different places, including with the original police agency.

"There are two ways to do it," said Lt. Kevin Walruff with the Medford Area Drug & Gang Enforcement team. "There's a civil action and there's a criminal action."

Police agencies can sell forfeited property to other law enforcement agencies — federal, state or local — or to the district attorney. Agencies may also sell it to the public and use proceeds to pay for the expenses of keeping and selling the property.

The law also allows agencies to retain some property or, with written authorization from the county's district attorney, destroy any forfeited firearms or controlled substances.

Under state law, proceeds first go to cover the cost of investigating and prosecuting a case.

After that, proceeds are distributed to a variety of funds, including the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission Account, the State Commission on Children and Families Account and county governments, if proper agreements exist.

Any leftover funds after that can be used by the police agency to purchase equipment or to pay for programs.

Walruff noted that MADGE does not seize dollar amounts under $300, saying the frequency of such events would add a lot of extra work and potentially gum up the system.

"It doesn't become efficient when you start getting to that," he said.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.