U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once described how states “serve as a laboratory and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” States have done this in the area of civil forfeiture, which allows police to seize the proceeds of drug sales. Statutes vary from state to state. The benefit is that, if a particular provision works well in one state, it can be adopted in others. The problem is that journalists may use evidence from other states to attack the practice in Missouri.
In “Taken: Despite reforms, burden still heavy on owners of seized property” (June 16 ), the authors cite statistics and horror stories from California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio and Texas. Then they suggest Missouri’s statute is flawed. The only Missouri facts they cite is that $9 million was seized statewide and “in St. Louis, law enforcement agencies in two counties each seized $1 million under civil asset forfeiture laws in 2017.”
Only one of the two mentioned counties, St. Charles, is part of the St. Louis metropolitan area. The other is Phelps County, and it has something in common with St. Charles County. Both are on major east-west interstate highways used by drug traffickers to transport drugs and return proceeds to the drug cartels, who are, no doubt, applauding efforts to restrict law enforcement efforts. If we think taking their drug money is an injustice, those families who have lost loved ones to the opioid epidemic must be wondering about our priorities.
Steve Ehlmann • St. Charles
St. Charles County executive