Drug seizure bill prompts heated debate

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    By Kyle Monson

    A press conference Wednesday morning Feb. 19 on the steps of the Capitol resulted in heated exchanges between supporters and opponents of Senate Bill 31.

    Nearly 50 Utah police chiefs joined with Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff to respond to what Shurtleff called “an organized misinformation campaign” against the bill.

    Senate Bill 31, sponsored by Valentine, would allow assets seized from drug dealers and other criminals to be allocated to the state to fund law enforcement and treatment for drug abusers.

    Opponents are concerned that property will be unjustly seized and misused by the state.

    Terry Trease, of West Jordan, spoke strongly against the bill, comparing asset forfeiture to piracy, and attacking Shurtleff”s involvement with the bill.

    “According to what they just said, this is going straight to Mark (Shurtleff),” he said, referring to assets seized.

    Supporters were just as vocal, accusing the bill”s opponents of “siding with the criminal element on this issue.”

    “When criminals support something, I don”t,” said Michael Sibbitt of the Utah Parole Board.

    Utah Valley State College Police Chief Tracy Marrott defended the bill, saying prison time isn”t enough of a deterrence for drug dealers who know their assets are safe.

    He said he supports the bill because of the extra funds it will bring to Utah County law enforcement.

    “We”ve had our hands tied; we haven”t been able to get assets from forfeiture,” Marrott said after the press conference. “It doesn”t seem that we ever have enough, but this will allow us to do a little more.”

    S.B. 31 is currently under review in the Senate.

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