Since 2016 the Kansas Legislature has been reviewing our state’s law enforcement policies concerning civil asset forfeiture. On the recommendation of a 2017 Kansas Judicial Council subcommittee report, amendments were made in 2018 to the state forfeiture act. And, those changes will probably not be the final word. The Legislature will take some time to gather additional information and then again review the reform activists’ arguments. In a nutshell, the complaints tend to be: 1) a law enforcement tool that removes property from criminal use and benefit is bad public policy; 2) forfeiture of property should first require a criminal conviction of those involved; 3) law enforcement should not receive the proceeds of asset forfeiture; and,4) Kansas law does not provide sufficient due process to property owners and possessors before forfeiting property.
Holding Seized and Forfeited Monies: One important 2018 change concerned how Kansas law enforcement agencies are to hold and process seized, and later forfeited, monies. With those requirements in mind, administrators should immediately put into place procedures that prevent the commingling of the different kinds and sources of funds. Agencies should now have the following separated funds: 1) a holding fund for seized monies that are pending state court forfeiture; 2) a law enforcement trust fund for monies forfeited by a state court and to be used in the future by that law enforcement agency; 3) a fund to hold and use federal court forfeited funds that have been shared with the Kansas agency through the federal equitable sharing program; and, 4) a fund to hold and expend state drug tax sharing funds from the Kansas Department of Revenue. There should be no private bank accounts because all forfeited monies are to be received, held, budgeted, and expended through the same process regulating other public funds. Lastly, all interest earned by forfeiture and drug tax accounts should be returned to those accounts and should not be sent to the general fund.
Spending Forfeited Monies: The second change important to administrators, also effective on July 1, 2018, was some better guidance on how to lawfully expend monies forfeited in state court proceedings. For many years it has been both national and Kansas policy to send the proceeds of civil forfeiture to the law enforcement agencies that provided the investigative and litigation resources necessary to enforce the forfeiture laws. In Kansas, those forfeited funds were to then be expended by the law enforcement agencies for “special, additional law enforcement purposes.” In essence, the general policy redirected criminal property to a more lawful use while at the same time provided additional non-tax funding to law enforcement agencies. With the 2018 amendments, and thanks directly to retired Chief Ed Klumpp, Kansas agencies now have much better guidance about what the phrase “special, additional law enforcement purpose” means. Inspired by federal equitable sharing use rules, an amendment to K.S.A. 60-4117(e) now lists twelve general guidelines of proper expenditures, including things like law enforcement equipment, training, travel, and sharing between agencies.
Reporting Seized and Forfeited Property: Prior to 2019, law enforcement agencies were only required to annually report forfeiture receipts and expenditures to their respective governing bodies. That requirement has been repealed and two new reporting requirements will become effective July 1, 2019.
First, all Kansas law enforcement agencies that seize property for civil forfeiture will be required, upon final disposition of the forfeiture case, to report that information to a new on-line state forfeiture repository operated by the KBI. Law enforcement agency administrators will need to begin reporting all cases that have a final disposition occurring on and after July 1, 2019, even if the original seizure of the property occurred prior to July 1, 2019.
Second, and on an annual basis, all Kansas law enforcement agencies (whether they have seized property for civil forfeiture or not), will be required to report monies and property forfeited, held, and expended during the previous calendar year. Even if none, an annual report has to be filed. The first annual report will be due in 2020 and will cover the six-month period July 1-December 31, 2019.
KBI is currently completing work on the new reporting program’s rules, regulations, and online website. KBI is committed to assisting agency administrators in complying with the new requirements, and KBI personnel are currently on the road doing training sessions to fulfill that goal. Questions about the repository, online access, and new reporting requirements should be directed to:
Jessica Crowder, Program Consultant II
Mitch Beemer, IBR Unit Manager