The practice takes advantage of a Texas law allowing law enforcement to confiscate money and personal property if they believe it was used in the commission of a crime. Despite the requirement that property be returned if no charges are filed, this is a rare occurrence in Tenaha. CNN reports that the town spent the money on many things including; department expenses, donations to a local church and a $10,000 check issued to one of the involved officers.
This type of behavior isn't limited to a small town in Texas.A case in Indiana sounds more fitting for an episode of The Shield than a crime in the Hoosier state. The Delaware County prosecutor was ordered late last year to refund legal fees after it was discovered that he had formed confidential agreements with a drug task force to get legal fees and 25% of seized assets, avoiding the mess of a trial. UPDATE: The Delaware prosecutor has been cleared of any wrongdoing in these cases.
It's not surprising that this power is abused by certain individuals and entities; mixing the ability to confiscate property with the potential for personal gain is asking for trouble. The corruption hasn't gone unnoticed, at least not in Texas, where the state is currently trying to stop the use of the methods used to extract money and jewelry from individuals in Tenaha.