Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard has used thousands of dollars from a little-known stash of public money to buy things that did not have much to do with putting crooks behind bars, but that burnished his image, let him hobnob with power brokers and even upgraded his home.
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About the story:
The Fulton District Attorney’s spending is possible because of the state’s decades-old civil forfeiture laws, which The Atlanta Journal Constitution previously found are vulnerable to abuse.
Each year, law enforcement agencies seize millions of dollars worth of cash, cars, and other property. District attorneys may take a 10 percent cut.
But the AJC found that procedures designed to make forfeitures more transparent don’t work, and critics say the laws give agencies an incentive to seize first and ask questions later.
Motorists said law enforcement agencies seized thousands of dollars in cash during traffic stops even though officers never established a crime took place.
Lawmakers tried to overhaul the law amid worries that agencies were spending money on flashy cars and other perks. Their bid failed after objections from sheriffs, who said problems were rare and the money was essential.