The federal civil asset forfeiture law allows local police to get up to 80 percent of money or property seized, with the rest going to the federal government for their role in the investigations and for administering the program.
Lucas’ case was among 117 in the 32-county Northern District of New York over the past five years in which the federal government used the law to seize $43 million in assets without having to charge the owners with a crime.
The Justice Department announced last month that it was shutting down the program, at least temporarily, under which the seized assets are shared among the police agencies involved in investigations. Federal officials cited budget constraints.
New York state seized more assets per capita under the civil asset forfeiture law than all but one other state in 2014. Police have been criticized for abusing the law to get quick access to money that they spend on new equipment, training and other expenses. They’re not allowed to use the money to pay salaries.