RD664 - Forfeited Asset Sharing Program FY2023
In 1991, citizens of Virginia voted to amend the Constitution of Virginia to permit laws allowing law enforcement agencies to benefit from seizures connected with the illegal distribution of narcotics. The General Assembly passed forfeiture law the same year. Proceeds from forfeitures connected with crimes other than illegal drug transactions are sent to the Literary Fund. The Forfeited Asset Sharing Program (FASP) allows local and state law enforcement agencies to utilize state forfeiture laws to seize and forfeit property connected to illegal drug activity, then receive a percentage of the forfeited funds for law enforcement use. The program also tracks the assets seized on the basis of illegal distribution of drugs until their final conclusion.
Proceeds may include money and property used in “substantial connection" with drug activities as well as anything of value exchanged for controlled substances. The program is a criminal deterrent, increases cooperation between federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, and strengthens law enforcement through the allowed use of proceeds obtained through forfeiture for law enforcement expenses. The Code of Virginia specifies that the use of the proceeds must supplement, not supplant, the law enforcement agency’s budget.
Virginia asset forfeiture law is accomplished through civil forfeiture of assets seized due to their connection to the illegal distribution of drugs. Law enforcement agencies wishing to participate in the program must submit all asset seizures to the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) through an online database by completing a Form 998. Assets are then tracked by DCJS until their final disposition.
Once an asset has gone through the civil asset forfeiture process or the disposition is resolved in another way, the law enforcement agency submits a Form 999 and any documentation such as court orders, expense receipts, bills of sale, etc. to DCJS. DCJS then reviews and closes cases as necessary. Assets forfeited totaling $500 or more are processed and proceeds distributed to the participating agencies by DCJS. Assets valued under $500 are processed by the agencies and reported to DCJS on the FASP Annual Report.
Annual Report Required
All agencies participating in the program must also submit a FASP Annual Certification Report and Sharing Agreement. This report shows revenue from forfeitures during the fiscal year, including interest income and forfeiture amounts under $500 that are not required to be reported to DCJS through the online database. The report lists by category how the asset forfeiture proceeds are used by the agencies, and DCJS ensures the items purchased comply with the permissible use policy of the program. The General Assembly requires additional agency self-reporting on the FASP Annual Report to include the total forfeiture proceeds sent to the Literary Fund each year as well as the total received by each agency from the Federal Equitable Sharing Program.
Criminal Charge Collection
Code of Virginia § 19.2-386.14 requires DCJS to collect additional information from local law enforcement agencies participating in the Forfeited Asset Sharing Program. This additional information includes: (i) the offense on which the forfeiture is based listed in the information filed pursuant to § 19.2-386.1, (ii) any criminal charge brought against the owner of the forfeited asset, and (iii) if a criminal charge was brought against the owner of the forfeited asset, the status of the charge, including whether the charge is pending or resulted in a conviction. The Forfeited Asset Sharing Program database collects the required Virginia criminal charge and criminal charge status information for every asset forfeited. In addition, at the time the seizure is reported, agencies report the basis for the seizure(s). This information is included in this report and Appendix A.
Code of Virginia § 19.2-386.14 also requires DCJS to collect criminal charge information on the federal asset forfeiture funds each agency receives. This information is self-reported by the agencies in the program, and then the information is compiled into the report in Appendix B.
Criminal Conviction Required
Effective July 1, 2020, the General Assembly amended asset forfeiture law to require a criminal conviction for all forfeitures. For the Forfeited Asset Sharing Program, the conviction must correspond to one of the code sections included in § 19.2-386.22. There is an automatic stay to all civil forfeiture cases until completion of the criminal case. Exceptions to the conviction requirement are agreed orders of forfeitures, plea agreements, or instances where the owner does not submit a written notice of demand to return the asset within 21 days.
Effects on Asset Forfeiture Proceeds
The COVID-19 pandemic caused court closures and delays well into 2022 and had an adverse effect on administration of courts and court cases, including asset forfeiture. FY2023 sees a trend towards returning to pre-pandemic levels of proceeds distributed.
FY2023 Disbursements to local law enforcement agencies: $5,208,229.90
FY2022 Disbursements to local law enforcement agencies: $4,819,194.72
FY2021 Disbursements to local law enforcement agencies: $4,196,651.59
FY2020 Disbursements to local law enforcement agencies: $5,056,405.42
FY2019 Disbursements to local law enforcement agencies: $5,769,820.35