Where Does Money Go When It’s Confiscated?

Our lead investigator takes on another case. 

It’s a question I hear time and time again: “How can I get a deal on a Pontiac Sunfire and meet hot singles in my area?” Dear readers, look no further than your local police auction. At these fast-paced events, everything from cars riddled with bullet holes to Jet Skis riddled with bullet holes is up for grabs, but there’s one product frequently collected from crime scenes that doesn’t ever make it to the block: cold hard cash. 

I don’t know who first said that crime doesn’t pay (Shakespeare? McGruff the Crime Dog?), but getting paid is literally the motivation behind 90 percent of all crime. That means police are constantly hauling cash from crime scenes, but where does it go from there? Essentially, if a bad guy (or girl! As a feminist, I believe it’s important to note that women can be master criminals, too) has made half a million from drugs and then is found guilty, the Crown has the option to take that money away and redistribute it to crime prevention grants across the country. And if the bad person is not convicted but the police still feel the money is pretty suspicious (say, they found it stacked underneath a pile of cocaine, wrapped in a note that says “Crime rules!”), they can essentially put the money itself on trial via the Civil Forfeiture Act, which I will herein refer to as CivForf because I’m trying to fit in with the younger, cooler editors in the office and abbreviation is v hot RN. 

CivForf investigates whether a given pile of cash is the proceeds of a crime (“Money you get from doing the bad thing,” as CivForf executive director Phil Tawtel patiently explained to me) or an instrument of crime (funds used to generate proceeds of crime, which, to reiterate, is money you get from doing the bad thing). If the probability of either is yes, then civil action (court time, Good Wife-style!) needs to be taken to keep the money. It’s a self-funding program—the money seized by CivForf pays for CivForf, and any excess goes into crime prevention programs for the community. Since its founding in 2006, the program has given $42 million to community organizations and police departments to fight human trafficking, domestic violence and more. So it looks like, once again, crime does pay! To fight crime! 

In CivForf cases, amounts over $75,000 are reviewed and may go to court, where police evidence and any other intel gathered during the discovery process are presented to a judge for ruling. For amounts of cash under $75,000, CivForf sends a letter and puts a notice in the BC Gazette basically saying, “You’ve got 70 days to tell me this isn’t crime money, or we’re keeping it”—sort of like a passive-aggressive “I Saw You” listing. (Sidebar: What is the BC Gazette? Are all criminals subscribers? Maybe it has a great crossword?) Anyway, if you happen to notice that the police have your money, you have the right to fight to get it back. After all, you probably just put that $10,000 down for a second next to a machine gun while you were looking up the address to the orphanage you were about to donate the cash to—sort of a wrong place, wrong time situation that could happen to anyone! You just need to prove to a judge that this was what happened, and you’ll get your cash returned, which you can then spend however a law-abiding citizen might desire: like on a murder hot tub at the next police auction.