What Happens to Confiscated Drug Money?

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Under federal law and according to the law in many states, law enforcement officials are permitted to keep drug money seized during raids to supplement their departments’ revenues. When multiple departments work together on a raid, each is awarded a percentage of the money seized. This applies to the FBI as well as state, county and city police.

According to the WSFB television news station in Connecticut, several police departments in its state have used drug money to purchase equipment, including gas masks, computer equipment and even vehicles. The news station added, however, that funds aren’t appropriated to law enforcement until suspects are convicted and even then, only if the judge in a particular case orders funds forfeited to police.

National Public Radio reports the amount of money United States law enforcement agencies were able to keep from raids of Mexican drug cartels on domestic soil tripled within a four-year period. While the federal government views the practice of allowing police to keep a portion of the drug money they seize as an incentive to arrest drug traffickers, critics of the practice say it encourages police to pursue cash and not the drugs themselves, thereby rendering the program ineffectual, according to the NPR report. At least four Texas police task forces are funded exclusively by money seized from suspected drug dealers.