A former Delaware County Deputy Prosecutor has had his law license suspended for 120 days after being found guilty of professional misconduct which occurred between 1995 and 2006. The prosecutor’s misconduct involved his negotiating criminal cases all while handling criminal forfeitures, of which he kept around 25% of the money collected.
His role in collecting the forfeitures was a contracted one with the prosecutor’s office. Under that agreement he was entitled to 1/4th of everything collected. The state supreme court, which ultimately decided his penalty, noted a serious conflict of interest when the same lawyer could be negotiating a plea agreement and a forfeiture arrangement in the same case, where he had a vested interest in the amount of money to be collected.
The ruling against him added that there were instances that the prosecutor turned a blind eye to possible ethical problems in the forfeiture arrangements in order to protect his potential income and continued pursuit of forfeited money and property.
When you are accused of a criminal offense, you can have your property confiscated by the state if it can be determined that they were obtained with illegal means or used for illegal ventures. A drug dealer’s car (purchased with drug money) is a simple example of this.
While the disciplinary committee recommended the prosecutor face a public reprimand, the state supreme court thought a suspension was more appropriate given the public’s perception of the case and the need for transparency and integrity within the prosecutor’s office.
Though the ruling admits he was negotiating plea agreements and forfeiture cases at the same time, they say there was no evidence that he “explicitly agreed to offer favorable treatment to a criminal defendant in exchange for money transferred,” through a forfeiture, according to the Indianapolis Star.
On the other hand, the court recognized the obvious when it added, “it would doubtless be evident to such a defendant, and to his or her attorney if represented, that prosecutorial discretion in how to proceed with the criminal case was held by one who stood to reap personal financial gain if the defendant agreed to the forfeiture of his or her assets.”
Interestingly, by law, all of the proceeds from criminal forfeitures are supposed to the state’s Common School Fund, not any law enforcement. But, it seems many prosecutor offices are pocketing some, if not all of the funds for themselves, calling them “law enforcement expenses.” In an effort to change this, or at least make it legal, lawmakers are working on changing the current law.
Criminal forfeitures add insult to injury. If you’re facing a criminal charge and the potential for years behind bars, the thought of losing your money and property can be another significant blow. Not sure if your property can be seized? Contact our attorneys today to discuss your case.