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2001 Policy Positions
of the Southern Legislative Conference



In 1985, the Department of Justice (DOJ) established the National Assets Seizure and Forfeiture Fund. Federal civil forfeiture law does not require a criminal conviction for the activity related to the assets at issue, contrary to the laws of most states in the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC). In addition, DOJ guidelines allow for the "adoption" of a state forfeiture, even when the forfeiture was not the result of a joint enforcement action. In return, the federal agency generally retains approximately 20% of the forfeited assets, and returns the balance to state and local law enforcement. Consequently, DOJ guidelines have encouraged state and local enforcement to bypass state laws which require forfeited assets to be used for specified purposes, such as education.


The Southern Legislative Conference of The Council of State Governments urges the states in the Conference to examine whether state forfeitures are reviewed by a state judge prior to any transfer to a federal agency, to assure compliance with the state laws. If the forfeiture is the result of a joint action between state or local and federal authorities, the state judge can transfer the assets to the relevant federal agency. If, however, there is little involvement of the federal agency other than storage of assets seized by state or local law enforcement, the disposition of the forfeited assets should comply with state law.

In addition, the SLC urges state legislatures throughout the Conference to assess the procedural safeguards for forfeiture proceedings. Requiring a conviction for the criminal activity related to the forfeiture is one method of providing protection to property owners. The Conference recognizes the propriety of a separate process for the disposition of seized firearms.

Finally, the SLC also encourages states in the Conference to call upon their federal elected officials to further reform federal civil forfeiture laws to require compliance with state laws.


Adopted by the Southern Legislative Conference, July 17, 2001, Savannah, Georgia.

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