The Denton City Council unanimously approved a new ordinance that expands the items associated with criminal activity that local police can confiscate when they suspect that a crime has taken place.
The new ordinance, which authorizes the city manager to enter into an agreement with the police department and the Denton County Criminal District Attorney, was approved during the most recent council meeting on October 24.
An assistant district attorney under Criminal District Attorney Paul Johnson sent a letter to the Denton Police Department on August 29, notifying the department that the district attorney’s office was terminating its existing agreements regarding seizures filed under Chapter 59 and Article 18. 18 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure effective the end of September.
“Our office has seen an increase in personal property consisting of stocks, bonds, securities, Cryptocurrencies, negotiable instruments, jewelry, precious metals, and coins. These items are being used as a means of hiding proceeds from law enforcement,” reads the letter. “Additionally, there has been an increase in negotiated cash settlements in lieu of forfeiting property.”
“In response, our office is adjusting the local agreements with each of our agencies,” wrote Assistant District Attorney Sheena Molsbee.
Under the new forfeiture-sharing agreement, Denton police can confiscate “gambling paraphernalia, devices, equipment, real (gambling property), cash proceeds, prohibited weapons, criminal instruments, and other contraband as defined under Article 18.18 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.”
The new agreement states that confiscated currency that is forfeited will also be split 80-20 between the Denton Police Department and the district attorney’s office.
The Denton Police Department is financially responsible for court-related, storage, auction, and maintenance expenses for vehicles and property, title searches, and other expenses, per the agreement. Percentages may also be modified by the district attorney’s office if necessary. Division for the sale of forfeited real estate will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
“I am aware that across the nation, some police departments seem to have a profit/budget motive in forfeiture, but I do not know the extent to which DPD engages [if at all] in this,” said Mayor Pro Tem Brian Beck, according to KERA News.
However, state law does not allow municipalities to budget spending based on police confiscation funds, which include auction proceeds, per the Denton Record-Chronicle.