AUSTIN (AP) - A newspaper reports today that Travis County
prosecutors routinely return some cash seized in felony drug
investigations -- even when they feel certain that the money
stemmed from criminal activity.
Last year, the district attorney's office returned nearly a
quarter-million dollars to about 80 defendants. That's according to
an analysis by the Austin American-Statesman. The payments ranged
from $500 to $14,700 and represented from a fourth to more than
half of what law officers took as part of an investigation.
Texas law requires prosecutors to sue defendants in civil court
to keep money taken in drug cases, linking it directly to criminal
activity. Instead of sending those cases to a judge, the Travis
County prosecutors normally settle the matter with defendants,
usually returning some of the money.
The practice goes back at least a decade and relieves officials
from having to pursue lengthy court fights over how money should be
split up. But prosecutors in some other Texas counties said they
only return cash after a careful case review.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)