Seized money forfeiture sought

Government officials are trying to keep thousands of dollars found inside a Davis Ave. house

Government officials are trying to keep thousands of dollars found inside a Davis Ave. house even though narcotics charges against a couple also found inside the house weren’t approved.

The money, $21,480, was seized April 11 when police officers used a search warrant at the 4600 Block Davis Ave. home.

Police said they also found cocaine, drug paraphernalia, a baton similar to that used by police officers and cell phones.

Investigating officers then forwarded information to federal drug prosecutors seeking possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking charges against a 35-year-old woman from Gitaus and a 40-year-old man from Terrace.

Those charges weren’t approved and no reason why was given by federal prosecutors. Prosecutors do need to consider two matters. First, is the evidence sufficient to justify the institution or continuation of proceedings and second, if it is, does the public interest require a prosecution to be pursued.

With criminal charges now not forthcoming, police are concentrating on provincial legislation enabling authorities to keep money or other assets seized in the course of criminal investigations.

In this situation, the money “was seized because there was evidence that [it] had been obtained by the commission of an offence, or offences, under section 5 (2) possession for the purpose of trafficking of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act of Canada,” said Tasha Schollen, from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

A civil forfeiture law was passed in 2005 allowing the government to use civil court rules and processes to go after property, vehicles and other assets used in, or acquired through, unlawful activity.

Civil forfeiture actions depend on a civil court standard of proof, which is a balance of probabilities and is action against property rather than people.

The Civil Forfeiture Office must consider three issues when making a decision to accept a file for forfeiture proceedings. The first is whether there is evidence to support the action and the second is whether the public interest is served by seeking forfeiture. Third is whether it is financially viable for the state to seek forfeiture.

Those who have money or assets seized or other people can dispute the action and must give reasons why they have a right to the property. Eventually, a supreme court judge will decide if the money or assets are to be returned.

Early last year, for the first time here, two houses believed to contain grow-ops were forfeited. One took place after a criminal case was dropped a week before the trial and the other forfeiture took place when criminal charges were not approved.

Money that is seized or money from assets that are seized and then sold is paid into a special account and used to compensate crime victims, pay for crime prevention programs, and pay for the costs of administering the act.

In Terrace last year, the local RCMP detachment received money from the program to install devices at Suwilaawks and at Ecole Mountainview, which tell drivers if they are exceeding the 30 kilometre an hour school zone limit.


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