SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A state official says new asset forfeiture training available to the state's various law enforcement agencies emphasizes due process and constitutional protections.
In particular, law enforcement seeks to protect so-called innocent owners, people whose assets may have been used to commit crimes without their knowledge. That word today from Deputy Attorney General Kirk Torgensen.
At issue is new state law that overhauled Initiative B, which passed in 2000 by a 69 percent margin.
Before the ballot initiative passed, police agencies could claim seized assets to fund their own drug interdiction programs.
The seizures usually were in drug cases, though forfeitures are possible in thousands of other crimes.
But after police and prosecutors complained they couldn't recoup administrative costs of forfeiture cases if they didn't receive some kind of reimbursement from assets, the Legislature reworked the law as Senate Bill 175. That allows proceeds of criminal activity to go back to law enforcement, but with protections to deter what critics called "cops on commission."
The bill diverts criminal assets to the state Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice for a crime-reduction assistance program.
The commission would award grants to law enforcement agencies, but not for officers' salaries or benefits.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)