Pubdate: Mon, 07 Jul 2003
Source: Herald Chronicle, The (TN)
Copyright: The Herald Chronicle 2003
Contact: 906 Dinah Shore Blvd Winchester, TN 37398
Author: Wayne Thomas
Bookmark: (Asset Forfeiture)


When Law Enforcement Makes a Drug Arrest and They Seize the Illegal 
Substances, Often Times They Seize Money, but What Happens to the Cash?

Franklin County Sheriff Department Chief Deputy and Winchester Public 
Safety Director say the money, just like the accused, ends up in court.

"We have a seizure hearing in Chattanooga before the Department of Safety," 
Winchester Public Safety Director Dennis Young recently explained.

"The courts decides if the money should be returned to the person it was 
seized from or given to the seizing agency," Chief Deputy Tim Fuller 
stated. Both officers say it takes a judicial order of forfeiture before 
the money can be turned over to police.

If the cash is awarded to the law enforcement agency, it is then placed 
into a special drug fund account.

"We spend the money to pay informants for information about drug activity," 
Young stated. "We also use the money to buy special equipment to battle 

"Not only do we use the money to buy equipment, but the money is also used 
to pay for a $55,000 fingerprint machine," Chief Fuller stated.

"Each of the cities along with our department contribute to the payment for 
the machine each year out of the drug fund."

Fuller also noted that the money is used to fund D.A.R.E. as well as pay 
outside undercover agents to come into the area and work.

Fuller added that the sheriff's department also purchases electronic 
devices that are frequently used in drug operations.

"We also have bought vehicles for our investigators out of the drug fund," 
Fuller stated.

Young also said that his department has been able to purchase equipment and 
vehicles from the drug fund. Both officers explained that the equipment and 
vehicles purchased through the fund have to be used in investigating drugs.

"If we didn't have the drug funds, we would be requesting huge amounts of 
money in our budgets for our drug investigations," Young explained.

Both Young and Fuller explained that they when they pay an informant for 
information on drug operations, the law requires them to obtain a signed 
receipt for the money spent.

"We sign a receipt for the money when we draw the money out and we also get 
the informant to sign as well," Fuller said.

"No money is spent without a signed receipt to back up the expenditure," 
Young explained. Both officers noted that they don't just draw money out 
and start spending without backup.

Decherd Police Chief Ben Foster notes that his department has to draw money 
from an account that is maintained by the City Recorder. "We have to 
account for every dollar spent from the fund," Foster said.

Young noted that his drug fund is maintained by the Administrative Director 
office at Winchester City Hall and is then audited by the city's auditing 
firm, which has to be submitted to the state.

Fuller explained that the state comptroller's office, as well as federal 
auditors examine the drug fund at the sheriff's department.

"We do several undercover operations each year with the federal Drug 
Enforcement Agency (DEA), so our records also have to be audited by them," 
Fuller explained.

He noted that the State Comptroller's office is very thorough, but the 
"federal auditors are even stricter."

Fuller explained that when his department conducts an undercover operation 
with the D.E.A., the federal agency will review any seizures made on their 
operation and will award a percentage to the county drug fund.

Fuller and Young both note that their individual budgets have a line item 
in their respective budgets for drug funds.

"The drug users are paying for the war on drugs," a smiling Young stated. 
"And we really appreciate them helping out."

Both officers noted that the explanation they have provided about the 
spending of money from the drug fund is done in a similar way in all law 
enforcement agencies.
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