Here in my jurisdiction the practice of all D.A.'s before me was to use D.A. forfeiture funds to purchase things not only for the official purposes of the office (salary supplements for assistants, office supplies, etc.) , but also to buy things for law enforcement agencies in the county. Radios, training, etc. I was planning on buying the sheriff a couple of new computers for a new office he is opening, and now my auditor is about to stoke out. I have looked at the "Discretionary Funds" article done by TDCAA (it is very good). However, when it references "to purchase items used by officers in direct law enforcement duties", that specific statute deals with the actual municipal law enforcement agency account. Is she splitting hairs here? The sheriff's office assists me in the prosecution and investigation of crime, wouldn't my buying them computers to assist me in the prosecution and investigation of crime be an "official purpose of my office"????
Posts: 3 | Location: Hempstead, TX, USA | Registered: December 29, 2008
If the computers had been seized and forfeited to your office, there should be no question that pursuant to art. 59.06(b) you could transfer them to the Sheriff. Likewise if you have a local agreement, part of the money from the sale of forfeited property might go to the Sheriff to purchase the computers as he sees fit. Further, it may be possible for you to purchase the computers and loan them to the Sheriff's department so that technically they remain D.A. property. The idea is that local law enforcement agencies should be encouraged to assist each other in all law enforcement activities. One way to encourage cooperation is to allow agencies to share the proceeds of forfeited property. Also, it shouldn't be a stretch to argue that helping local law enforcement agencies execute their duties(investigate, prepare reports, communicate, etc.) is an official purpose of the D.A.'s office.
Posts: 17 | Location: Rio Grande City, TX, U.S. | Registered: November 08, 2005
Most prosecutors across the state use asset forfeiture funds to purchase equipment for law enforcement agencies operating in their jurisdiction. The "official purposes" of a prosecutor's office include assisting the police with crime prevention and crime detection in addition to criminal prosecution. Arming the police with better equipment to assist in those endeavors to enhance the prospects of a successful criminal prosecution has always been deemed adcceptable and in accordance with CCP Chapter 59.
Posts: 1029 | Location: Fort Worth, TX | Registered: June 25, 2001
For example, a few years ago, I used asset forfeiture funds to install digital recording equipment at every major police department in the county so that we could have quality recordings of interviews. We were tired of bad VHS tapes or no recordings at all. I can't think of anything we have spent money on that did more to improve the accomplishment of the DA's official purposes.
This question comes up a lot among auditors. As the media has reported, not every expenditure of these funds is thoughtfully made, and how your office benefits is not always obvious to the auditor. You may find it helpful to provide your auditor with a letter/email that gives a short explanation of how the expenditure will assist your office (ie: meet the requirements of chapter 59 for an expenditure). The auditor will then have the documentation that supports the statutory compliance (particularly if you have an external audit). It also provides a little coverage for you, should the media ask to see financial information on those accounts under PIA.
Posts: 39 | Location: Travis | Registered: May 19, 2008