Drug asset forfeiture cases are civil law suits filed by government to seize and obtain ownership of property that has been used in illegal drug-related activity. The basis for such law suits dates back to laws of medieval England, when property used in the commission of a crime was itself considered criminal and subject to forfeiture to the king. The idea of drug forfeitures today is a bit more refined and is aimed at recovering the expense of drug-enforcement activities. It is an attempt to take away property that people have used to benefit from illegal drug-related criminal activity.
Forfeiture of property can be sought through a civil suit or, in the case of certain felonies, directly within a criminal case. A respondent is entitled to a jury trial to determine whether the property was involved in illegal drug-related activity. There are defenses for innocent owners of the property.
The laws on civil forfeitures are found at Idaho Code 37-2744 and 37-2744A. The laws on criminal asset forfeitures are found at Idaho Code 37-2801 through 37-2815. You can review these by clicking this link the State of Idaho's Uniform Controlled Substance Act.
In the year 2001, the prosecuting attorney's office was able to obtain forfeiture of approximately $11,000 worth of property. Pursuant to an informal agreement, the prosecutor's office retains 10% of the amount forfeited on each case with the remaining 90% being divided between the law enforcement agencies that contributed to the investigation and prosecution of the case. The prosecutor's office was able to use the money it received to purchase a new television with a tape-tape recording system, dictation machines and transcribers for each of the attorneys and secretaries. Some forfeited property was simply converted to use by the prosecutor's office, such as a CD-rom disc writer, CD-rom discs and a radio scanner. Law enforcement used their funds to purchase equipment, make payments on vehicles used for drug canines, and to cover the costs of undercover and confidential informant drug purchases. The use of these forfeited assets is that the provide needed funds and equipment for law enforcement agencies without a cost to the taxpayer.