Georgia sheriffs speak on forfeiture bill

From a Jan. 24 letter to State Rep. Wendell Willard by Ben Hill County Sheriff Bobby McLemore, president of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association: It is on behalf of the members of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association that I respectfully advise you of our opposition to the substitute to House Bill 1 … .
We feel the substitute to House Bill 1 properly addresses the issues of burden of proof, discretion of appropriate use of condemned assets by sheriffs and chiefs and the threshold amount for quasi-administrative forfeitures. We are grateful for these compromises, but have serious concerns with the nature and extent of newly added procedural requirements which will unnecessarily complicate our existing constitutional process of condemning assets seized through criminal activity. Surely, these newly required procedures can only create additional burdens for our Clerks of Superior Court and District Attorneys whose offices remain understaffed. We furthermore believe the imposition of such procedures will only hinder prosecutors from going forward with forfeitures and thus allow the unwarranted return of illicitly acquired assets to criminals.
There are certainly other concerns with the substitute which will be discussed once our analysis of the proposal is complete. In the meantime, the sheriffs will continue to express to Representatives and Senators their opposition to the substitute. Will all due respect to you as author of the bill and respected member of the State Bar of Georgia, the sheriffs feel the Substitute to House Bill 1 will not serve to protect or benefit the citizens of our State.

Coweta County Sheriff Mike Yeager, from the Newnan, Feb. 18: “Law enforcement’s ability to seize the assets and profits of drug dealers continues to be an effective and valuable tool in the police community.”
“Anything that degrades that tool will only enrich those involved in dealing drugs in our community. The property and money taken from innocent working taxpayers in burglaries, robberies and thefts goes straight to the drug dealer. The drug dealer pays no income tax. … He or she simply profits and pushes more poison to profit more.”

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