Bill could hurt law officials profiting from drug seizures - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Bill could hurt law officials profiting from drug seizures

BROOKS CO., GA (WALB) -

Some Georgia sheriffs spent the day in Atlanta fighting a bill they say would hurt law enforcement's ability to profit from property seizures in drug cases.

It's called House Bill 1, and many Georgia sheriffs firmly oppose it.

"Every time we take down a drug dealer, their car, their money, property, jewelry, anything that we can prove was brought with drug money, can be seized," said Brooks County Sheriff, Mike Dewey.

And right now many local law enforcement agencies depend on seized property to buy equipment for their departments without having to burden taxpayers.

The Brooks County Sheriff's Department recently purchased 40 new guns partially with drug seizure money, ten of those were high power riffles used by the SWAT team.

Most of the property Brooks County deputies seize goes up for auction and profits go into a drug seizure account. Dewey says in past years they've been able to put up to $40,000 in the account. And in some cases they just keep the property for official use.

"We seized this truck about five years ago in a drug seizure, this truck has been very useful to us," said Capt. Joe Wheeler, BCSO.

Dewey says he's worried what will happen to drug seizure profits if the bill passes.

"Once it goes to the state you don't have any accountability about where it's being used at, and I'm pretty sure it will not be used for law enforcement."

Proponents of House Bill 1 argue that current seizure laws allow law enforcement to steal the property of citizens without any judicial process. But opponents argue those laws have been proven constitutional.

The House Judiciary committee took up the bill today.

Copyright 2013 WALB.  All rights reserved.

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