Forfeiture Sharing in Arizona

Legislative directives have required law enforcement to rely to some extent on the proceeds of forfeitures since the Arizona Anti-Racketeering Revolving Fund was created in 1980, followed by federal legislation allowing federal sharing with state and local law enforcement agencies in 1984.  Sharing of forfeiture case proceeds has evolved rapidly since these early days, with state amendments in most of the years since 1980 and federal statutory or policy adjustments almost as frequently.  In 1994 the Arizona Legislature made substantial changes to its financial directives in this field.  Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice was amending its “Guide to Equitable Sharing of Federally Forfeited Property for State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies” (“Guide”), dated March 1994 but disseminated in April and May, after the Arizona statutory changes were finalized but before the July 17, 1994 effective date of the 1994 act.

The net effect of these changes is substantial enough to create concern among police administrators and supervisors who have responsibility to keep their department’s forfeiture funds within all of the applicable guidance.  This summary is intended to alert the reader to potential issues that may require administrative attention.  It is not a detailed explanation of the applicable statutes or federal guidance.  These are found in A.R.S. § 13-2314.01 (Attorney General’s Anti-racketeering Revolving Fund), A.R.S. § 13-2314.03 (County Attorney’s Anti-racketeering Revolving Fund), and A.R.S. § 13-4315 for state issues and in the Guide and 21 U.S.C. § 881(e)(1)(A) and (e)(3), 18 U.S.C. § 981(e)(2), and 19 U.S.C. § 1616a for federal issues.

Funds derived from Arizona state court forfeitures and racketeering cases are subject to A.R.S. § 13-2314.01 (Attorney General’s Anti-racketeering Revolving Fund), A.R.S. § 13-2314.03 (County Attorney’s Anti-racketeering Revolving Fund), (collectively referred to as the “Revolving Funds”) and A.R.S. § 13-4315(B), which takes precedence over “any other provision of law to the contrary.”

The Revolving Fund statutes direct all monies from state cases or from federal sharing into one of the sixteen funds, one for each county and one for the Attorney General.  If the receiving agency is a state agency, the money must go into the state fund. Otherwise, the agency/political subdivision may elect either the state fund or the fund of the appropriate County Attorney.

The application of A.R.S. § 13-4315(B) will supersede this if the money can be identified as being from its investigative funds or as having been exchanged for property from its investigative property.  This means that “reversal” and “sting” monies go directly back to the agency.  The other exception to the rule that all monies go to the Revolving Funds is that the investigative agency may make a showing of costs and expenses which it incurred in connection with the investigation and prosecution, in which case the court is to order that amount returned to the agency.  In practice, few agencies have used this mechanism, since it requires time accounting.

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