HARBESON: Drug seizure funding is a drag
> SOUTHERN INDIANA — I don’t know how you feel about illegal drug use, but if you are currently against it and you also care about funding government schools, you may want to reconsider your position.
Here’s why: Indiana’s laws are set up so that the government schools can benefit from illegal drug trade through asset forfeiture laws. Of course, it’s kind of a bureaucratic process so a couple steps need to happen before the schools get any money from your illegal transactions.
First of all, your dealer would have to be caught so the government can seize his assets. Yes, that would put a crimp in your future support, but only temporarily. After all, we know from decades of fighting the drug war that someone else will quickly fill the void.
So that part’s really no big deal.
The hard part is the second consideration, making sure government officials actually follow the laws they set up for themselves. In Indiana, the law says that when a county seizes assets from a crime — and everyone agrees that most of these crimes are drug related — they are supposed to deduct the costs of law enforcement and then send the rest to the Common School Fund.
Now, some of you might think it’s kind of creepy to fund schools this way but it makes sense once you understand the drug war. Drug transactions are only crimes because government says so.
There is no victim needing restitution, so asset seizure only benefits the government that made the transactions illegal in the first place. Since this makes the drug war look like an unending profit-making scheme for the government, they have to direct some of the money to areas few will criticize.
But creating a law that tells government officials where to direct funds doesn’t mean they will actually follow it. Recently, a private law firm figured out that most counties in Indiana have not been depositing any money from asset seizures into the Common School Fund. This firm believes these counties are not following the law properly, so they filed suit.
The county prosecutors were completely offended. They said they certainly are acting properly and reminded everyone that the law says they can deduct law enforcement costs first and well, they can’t help it if it just so happens that in all the cases, the enforcement costs exceeds the value of the seized assets.
Supposedly, the law firm that filed the suit thought Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller would investigate this possible abuse of the law on behalf of the citizens. But Zoeller said he was going to defend the prosecutors instead.
Zoeller said there is a state law that says if a prosecutor is sued in connection with his job, Zoeller has to defend him. I know that sounds strangely cozy but, hey, it’s state law.
But even so, Zoeller figured out this was a sticky situation, so of course he’s passing the buck. He said the courts are not the proper place to figure out this problem. He said the state law is unclear and the prosecutors need more direction in determining how much to deposit into the school fund.
So this issue is apparently moving to the wise, all-knowing legislature. You know, the entity who already wrote the previous law that has professional lawyers all across the state confused. The legislature thinks they can come up with a formula, through the political process that will settle this once and for all.
And that will be just great because then those who participate in the illegal drug trade will be able to figure out exactly how many joints it takes to put another brick in the wall.
Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson bets that many readers of this column are now wondering how much you contributed to the common school fund over the years.