The Connecticut General Assembly
OFFICE OF LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH
.I NAME: 218.rpt
.I COMP: 2/1/96
.I REVW: cop000
.I PAGES: 3
.I TITLE: drug forfeiture
.I NOTES: tjo
February 1, 1996 96-R-0218
FROM: Sandra Norman-Eady, Senior Attorney
RE: Drug Forfeiture
You asked us to review a flyer from the State Police that offers a reward of up to $250,000 for information on illegal drug trafficking that leads to the forfeiture of property used to facilitate the crime. You also wanted background information on the program.
The State Police in cooperation with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has developed and is distributing a flyer that offers up to $250,000 for information leading to the forfeiture of property used to facilitate a violation of state or federal drug laws. The flyer asks anyone with information regarding illegal drug activity to call the State Police or DEA.
According to the flyer, both state and federal authorities can pay a percentage of the value of forfeited property to people who provide information that leads to property seizures. Under federal law, the U.S. attorney general or her delegate may pay up to $250,000 for information or assistance directly relating to violations of criminal drug laws, including money laundering. She may pay the lesser of $250,000 or one-fourth of the amount realized from forfeited property for information that leads to the seizure of property.
Under state law, a panel is responsible for authorizing expenditures from the Drug Assets Forfeiture Revolving Account. Funds in the account can be used to reimburse local police departments that use their own funds to detect, investigate, apprehend, and prosecute people for violating illegal drug laws.
STATE POLICE FLYER
1. states the the State Police, the DEA, and local police are seeking information about illegal drug trafficking, including marijuana growing, in Connecticut;
2. offers a reward of up to $250,000 for information regarding drug activity;
3. informs the reader that state and federal authorities can pay a percentage of the value of forfeited property to individuals providing information leading to the seizure of property; and
4. cautions that property can be seized for state or federal drug violations.
The reward program is the brainchild of David Hoyt, a special agent for the DEA. Hoyt provided all of the information contained in this report about the program, except the process for rewarding an informant.
The program is only one of a number of different programs designed to gather intelligence information. It has been in effect for only five months. Connecticut residents are informed of the program by the Department of Motor Vehicles when their motor vehicle registration renewals are mailed. The flyers are expected to be inserted in 1.3 million registration renewal notices.
Although people have been calling the hotline number provided on the flyer with information about illegal drug activities, no one has received a reward.
A person with information about illegal drug activities calls the hotline which is answered by dispatchers with the Department of Public Safety. The information gathered is given to State Police officers who conduct the criminal investigations. If the information leads to an arrest, conviction, and property forfeiture, the attorney general has authorized DEA's deputy assistant administrator for operations to exercise discretion in paying the informant a reward from the assets forfeiture fund, according to John Hughes, assistant U.S. attorney. No written guidelines instruct the deputy when it is proper to confer informant awards; rather, unwritten agency practice governs this decisionmaking process.
Typically, the special agent in charge at the relevant field division office submits an award request and a written recommendation justifying it based on the informant's level of participation and the government's net proceeds. The deputy assistant administrator relies on the written recommendation and determines whether to authorize or deny payment without an investigation. If
the deputy approves an award, DEA headquarters issues a check to the appropriate field office. The maximum reward depends on the net amount the government recovers after deducting all related costs, including investigation, prosecution, and auction.
FEDERAL LAW ON REWARD TO DRUG INFORMANTS
Under federal law, a convicted drug felon's drug profits and proceeds, any property he used to commit the drug crime, and any interest he maintains in a continuing criminal drug enterprise must be forfeited as a part of any sentence (21 USCA Sec. 853). In addition to this mandatory forfeiture provision, federal law subjects other property to civil forfeiture. This property includes: (1) all privately owned vehicles, boats, or aircrafts used to transport or conceal drugs; (2) all money, checks, notes, and securities paid in exchange for drugs; and (3) all real property used to commit a drug felony (21 USCA § 881).
Proceeds from forfeited property are placed in the Department of Justice Assets Forfeiture Fund. The fund is located in the U.S. Treasury and is available to the U.S. attorney general for a number of law enforcement purposes. Two of these purposes are relevant to the Connecticut reward program. One allows the attorney general to pay awards for information or assistance directly relating to violations of the criminal drug laws of the United States. The other allows her to pay for information or assistance leading to a civil or criminal forfeiture involving any federal agency participating in the fund (28 USCA § 524 (c)(1)(B) and (C)).
The law caps the amount of money that may be paid to informants providing illegal drug information at $250,000. The award for forfeiture information cannot exceed the lesser of $250,000 or one-fourth of the amount realized by the United States from the property forfeited (28 USCA § 524 (c)(2)).
STATE LAW ON INFORMANT AWARDS
Under state law, property derived or obtained from the proceeds of illegal drug sales or exchanges, or used or intended to be used to commit or facilitate an illegal drug sale may be forfeited to the state. Once forfeited, the property may be sold at a public auction. The net proceeds from the sale of the property must be deposited in the state Drug Assets Forfeiture Revolving Account for a number of different purposes (CGS § 54-36h). One of these purposes appears to be paying for informant information.
By law, 70% of the funds in the account must be distributed to the Department of Public Safety and local police departments for detecting, investigating, apprehending, and prosecuting people who violate illegal drug laws. A panel of three—the public safety commissioner, the statewide narcotics task force commander, and the Chiefs of Police Association president is responsible for the distribution (CGS§ 54-36i). As of June 30, 1995, the last date for which this information was readily available, the account had $1,175,196, according to Rosemary Salerno, fiscal administrative officer for Department of Public Safety. Of this amount, $869,363 must be distributed locally.