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Opinion | The importance of civil asset forfeiture

Dave Sutton



By Brian McVeigh and Dave Sutton

The Alabama Legislature is considering legislation that would change the way civil asset forfeitures are handled in Alabama. While well-meaning, some of the proposed changes would essentially gut what is an effective crime-fighting tool while making it easier for drug dealers and other criminals to hang on to their ill-gotten gains. The result would be more crime.

Unfortunately, several special interest groups have pushed a narrative that law enforcement – police, sheriffs and other authorities – are using civil asset forfeiture to unfairly take money and property from innocent Alabamians.

That narrative is false. Law enforcement uses civil asset forfeiture only to go after criminals, and state law already guarantees a process that is clear and fair for any person to challenge forfeiture in court. State law also provides built-in safeguards that protect the property of those who have committed no crime.

What is civil asset forfeiture and why is it necessary?


First and foremost, civil asset forfeiture is a crime-fighting tool. It is used to both deprive criminals of the ill-gotten gains of crimes like drug-dealing and attack the means by which these crimes are committed.

Consider, for example, money seized in a drug raid. Drug dealers trade in cash. Not only do dealers sell their drugs for cash, they also use this cash to buy drugs from their suppliers. Taking just a few thousand dollars in drug money off the street means there is less money to buy drugs and, thus, less drugs being sold.

But it is also important to prevent criminals from enjoying the fruits of their crime. We know drug money as well as cash derived from the sale of stolen goods are used to buy vehicles, guns, houses, jewelry and other items. It makes no sense to allow those who traffic in crime to keep the proceeds of their crimes. That would reward criminality.

It is critical that civil asset forfeiture remains a staple in the crime-fighting toolbox.

Here are some important facts to keep in mind.

Law enforcement and prosecutors can’t go after property unless it can be shown it was used in a crime, was gained through criminal action or bought with the proceeds of a crime. Alabama law lays out a clear process that prosecutors must follow in going after a criminal’s assets and an easy process for people to challenge the forfeiture.

More important, no asset can be forfeited in state court without the approval of a judge who weighs evidence both for and against forfeiture. Even in cases in which the property owner doesn’t contest the forfeiture, a judge must still sign off on it. These proceedings begin with public document filings in circuit court and are disposed of in an open and public forum, with all proceeds subject to audit.

In fact, the procedures used in civil forfeitures are the same as those used in every civil lawsuit filed in Alabama. If there is something fundamentally wrong with the way we handle civil forfeitures, then there is also something fundamentally wrong with the way all lawsuits are handled.

Two changes to the state’s civil forfeiture law are especially concerning to DAs and law enforcement. One would allow forfeiture only if there is a criminal conviction; the other would require that any proceeds from forfeitures go to the state’s General Fund rather than local law enforcement. Though these changes may sound good, they would hurt public safety and make civil forfeiture less fair.

Requiring criminal convictions would result in more criminal charges filed and more people going to prison for lesser crimes. Consider pretrial diversion programs, such as drug court, for example. These programs allow people arrested for nonviolent crimes, including some drug charges, to go into treatment and other programs that keep them out of prison. Participants in these programs are not convicted of a crime, so under the proposed change, the only way to deprive them of their ill-gotten gains would be to prosecute them.

Meanwhile, sending the proceeds of forfeiture to the state’s General Fund would result in fewer busts of drug and stolen property rings. What incentive would local police and sheriffs have to invest manpower, resources and time in these operations if they don’t receive proceeds to cover their costs?

Prosecutors and law enforcement take issue with other parts of the proposed legislation. Alabama passed meaningful asset forfeiture reform in 2014 that strengthened safeguards and built on existing due process protections for criminal defendants, innocent owners and bona fide lienholders. We are always willing to work with lawmakers to strengthen Alabama’s laws to fight crime and protect our citizens.

Calhoun County District Attorney Brian McVeigh is president of the Alabama District Attorneys Association. Coffee County Sheriff Dave Sutton is president of the Alabama Sheriffs Association.

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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Brett Kavanaugh: Chief Justice Moore 2.0

John W. Giles



What do U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh and former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore have in common? They both are victims of the new ambush strategic initiative of the Washington Post.  What does the Washington Post and have in common? Jeff Bezos owns them both!  What do Jeff Bezos and George Soros have in common?  Both men are billionaires, who use their fortunes funding social engineering, promoting socialism, and supporting liberal causes and candidates.  Finally, what do the media elite, Bezos, Soros, liberal democrats, and social media magnates have in common?  For some reason they HATE economic, social, moral and constitutional conservatives and will attempt to destroy them at all cost.  The centerpiece of this article is the Kavanaugh – Moore connection; let’s raise the curtain and look backstage.

There is a new eleventh hour, well-strategically planned, perfectly time lined out, well-executed, mostly untraceable, and unmerited assault being unleased on economic, social, moral, and constitutional conservatives like Kavanaugh and Moore.  They bushwhacked Kavanagh before his Senate Judiciary committee vote, and they hit Moore when he was about to grab the coveted U.S. Senate seat for Alabama.

Sun Tzu was a Chinese general, military strategist, writer, and philosopher from ancient China, who authored a thirteen-chapter military strategic outline entitled, “The Art Of War.”  It is commonly known that consulting firms who generally represent liberal candidates craftily apply Sun Tzu war tactics with a few over arching themes: win at all cost, attack them at their strengths, and perception, not truth, is the origin.  Kavanaugh and Moore were both attacked at their strengths in the eleventh hour, publicly maligned, and unfortunately, stained as guilty until proven innocent.

Moore earned a stellar reputation in life: recognized as valedictorian in high school, appointed by Republican Congressman Jim Martin to attend West Point Military Academy, served with distinction as an Army Officer in Vietnam, earned a law degree from the University of Alabama Law School, appointed to a judicial circuit bench by Republican Governor Guy Hunt, re-elected as circuit judge, and then successfully ran for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.  Even though the Ten Commandments are the cornerstone of western civilized law and the moral foundation of the U.S. Constitution, Moore was sued in 1992 by the ACLU in Etowah County for posting a wood burned carving plaque of the Ten Commandments on the courtroom wall.  Remember, the ACLU elevated Moore into the national spotlight; not of his own doings.  Keep in mind the U.S. Supreme Court has a stone tablet over their courtroom backdrop in D.C. of the Ten Commandments and another couple of stone carvings of Moses holding the tablets depicting the Ten Commandments are the moral foundation of the U.S. Constitution.  Moore is a dedicated and devoted Southern Baptist Christian and often quotes scripture and may refer to God several times in his speeches.  Some in our state, many who are jealous of his notoriety, developed the perception that this nation media attention was self-serving.  Some, even church going folks, get nervous and antsy when a speech is given referencing God more than two times.  Others may not like his style and have formed an unmerited negative opinion.  I have known Moore for about twenty nine years, and I can tell you his faith and tenacity is an authentic passion; and he sincerely desires to restore constitutional governing back to all three branches of government at both the state and federal level.

After Senator Jeff Sessions was appointed as U.S. Attorney General by President Trump, Governor Bentley appointed former Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange as the U.S. Senator from Alabama.  Bentley later resigned and Governor Kay Ivey called for a special election for this seat.  Moore sailed through the primary and Republicans gave him an overwhelming 54.6% of the run off vote, even after approximately thirty million dollars had been spend against him by the Senate Majority Fund and others.  After the run off, Jeff Bezos and the Washington Post unleashed a timely and horrifically fabricated dossier given to them by an unnamed source alleging Moore assaulted a teenage girl. There were no witnesses, no corroboration, and all of the claims were proven not true.  Then the strategic timeline began to unpack with the notorious Gloria Allred marching out another supposed victim.  Here again, there were no witnesses, no corroboration, and nothing about the claims were proven true.  After the Allred drama show, we all lost count of the mounting string of the false accusations.  Then, the Doug Jones liberal coalition including George Soros, Super Pac Hwy 31, and others spent another twenty million dollars tearing the hide off a good man.  Even high ranking Republicans at the state and national level turned their back on Moore, but many later stood true with Kavanagh.  Even with a tsunami of pressure on Governor Kay Ivey to withdraw her support, she dug in and fought like a warrior keeping her support of Moore; she’s my kind of girl.


Brett Kavanagh had also earned an unblemished stellar record in his life accomplishments.  His education includes a B.A. Yale University (cum laude) and J.D at Yale Law School. His public career includes clerking in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.  He also worked in the Solicitor General’s office, Office of Independent Counsel, Assistant to President Bush, and served on the U.S. Court of Civil Appeals.  In his public service positons, Kavanagh had six thorough FBI background checks and cleared them all.  He was squeaky clean, and then the Jerry Springer style circus of rabid liberals, who opposed his nomination, public hearings, and confirmation of Justice Kavanagh, was Chief Justice Roy Moore 2.0.  The rest is history. Kavanagh is on the high court, but the modern day “Art Of War” assault against economic, social, moral, and constitutional conservatives has only just begun, unless this clear and present danger to the national security of our elections is preserved.

Kavanagh and Moore may have the same DNA, but differing styles; both are economic, social, moral, and constitutional conservatives, each have a deeply held faith, and come from GOP camps.  I am very happy at this moment of how Senator Mitch McConnell faced the violet tsunami getting Kavanagh confirmed, but I am very disappointed that he and Senator Shelby shunned and turned their backs on Moore.  That is a debate down range.  The most important take away here is we need to return in this country to the long served notion that we are presumed innocent until proven guilty.  Liberal media outlets like The Washington Post and others truly HATE conservatives, and there is no limbo bar too low to slither under to ruin the character of good people.  In the heat of the battle, please listen to those who have known personally the assaulted conservative for years and hear what they say, rather than believing CNN and those embracing the Maxine Waters doctrine. Unless we send some folks to jail for perjury, fraud, malicious slander, and the like, we can expect our finest to become Kavanagh – Moore 3.0.  Anyone can be next.


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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Our HBCUs are at risk – we need to step up to protect them

Sen. Doug Jones



Since 1867, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or “HBCUs,” have played a vital role in Alabama’s higher education system. With 14 today, Alabama is home to the most of any state in the country. And as I said in a recent speech on the Senate floor, we don’t just have the most, we have the best.

Tuskegee University is the only HBCU with a College of Veterinary Medicine, and the school produces over 75-percent of African-American veterinarians in the world. It has also just hired its first female university president, Dr. Lily McNair.

Alabama A&M University is the only 1890 land-grant university offering four Ph.D. programs. They are also the leading producer of African-Americans with Ph.Ds. in Physics.

Oakwood University is the nation’s fifth-highest producer of undergraduate African-American applicants to medical school.

Alabama State University is home to the National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African American Culture. ASU is currently doing preservation work on some never-before-seen documents such as court notions, bond documents, and official papers connected to the Montgomery bus boycott.


And Lawson State Community College was named a Champion of Change in 2011 by then-President Barack Obama.

Today, there are over 100 accredited HBCUs, both public and private, in 19 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They enroll approximately 300,000 students – 80-percent of whom are African-American and 70-percent are from low-income families. While HBCUs only make up three-percent of our country’s colleges and universities today, they produce nearly 20-percent of all African-American graduates.

Among HBCU graduates, there are countless trailblazing Americans who have quite literally changed the course of our history as a nation: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Marian Wright Edelman, Langston Hughes, Katherine Johnson.

And according to the National Science Foundation, between 2002 to 2011, the top eight institutions where African-American Ph.Ds. in science and engineering earned their bachelor’s degree were all HBCUs. HBCUs annually generate $14.8 billion in economic impact and add more than 134,000 jobs for local and regional economies. Based on a report in 2014, Alabama HBCU graduates can expect total earnings of $130 billion in their lifetimes. I could go on and on.

For all of these incredible achievements, HBCUs in Alabama and across the country are working against the strong headwinds of serious financial struggles.

The Government Accountability Office recently investigated the capital finance needs of HBCUs. Its report estimates that 46-percent of all HBCU buildings are in need of repair or replacement. This is due to deferred maintenance, the evolution of higher education and technology, and the fact that many of these buildings are state or federal registered historic places. For example, Tuskegee University is designated as a National Historic Site by Congress.

That is a remarkable figure – and it is wholly unacceptable.

But this is not a surprise for those who understand the challenges these institutions have long faced. HBCUs lack a plethora of revenue sources – public HBCUs heavily rely on state and federal grants, appropriations, and bonds. Private HBCUs have to rely on private or alumni giving and tuition fees. On top of that, the GAO found that the average endowment of an HBCU is half the size of a similarly sized non-HBCU.

None of the 90 institutions of higher education in the country with endowments greater than $1 billion is an HBCU.

This results in an endless cycle for these schools that have contributed so greatly to our country and the talented students they serve. With their limited revenue sources and the discrimination they face in the bond market, it is difficult to maintain campus buildings that attract high enrollment. Lower enrollment just leads to even less tuition and fees collected. And the cycle continues.

But I don’t just want to talk about problems without offering a solution.

Recently, I introduced the Strengthening Minority-Serving Institutions Act that will permanently extend and increase federal funds to all minority-serving institutions. Most federal funds are currently set to expire after Fiscal Year 2019.

My bill goes beyond just supporting our HBCUs, but is inclusive of other minority-serving schools like those that primarily admit Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians, Native Americans, and Hispanic Americans, among others.

With this legislation, we increase mandatory funding from $255 million to $300 million for these institutions.

They will be able to put that money to good use for infrastructure improvements, technology upgrades, and other critical needs that have gone unfulfilled.

This won’t solve all of the challenges HBCUs are working hard to overcome, but it’s a step in the right direction—and it’s the right thing to do for these schools that are part of the very foundation of our higher education system.


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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Water infrastructure vital to Alabama’s economy

Bradley Byrne



There are very few places in the United States that can boast the sort of diverse infrastructure we have here in Alabama. There are 11 interstates, over 3,000 miles of freight rail, 5 commercial airports, and more than 132,000 miles of rivers and stream channels in our state.

One of our state’s most important pieces of infrastructure is the Port of Mobile, the 10th largest port and fastest growing container terminal in the United States. With 41 berths, 5 million square feet of warehouses and yards, and covering 4,000 total acres, it has an economic impact of around 135,000 jobs in Southwest Alabama and generates more than $22 billion per year in economic value.

Recent expansions and developments at the Port will only further grow the economic impact of the Port on not only Southwest Alabama but our entire state. For example, the recent announcement about a new roll-on/roll-off vehicle processing facility at the Port will help our state’s automotive manufacturing industry continue to grow.

Even with these impressive facts, it has been clear that our infrastructure throughout the country is in need of updates, repairs, and overhauls to ensure that we are at the cutting edge of transportation and innovation in order to compete economically on the world stage.

Last week, in a major bipartisan effort, Congress sent a piece of legislation to President Trump’s desk that will help to unlock the full economic potential of our region and state.


America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 passed the Senate last week, after passing out of the House a few weeks back. This bill authorizes funding for waterway projects, port improvement projects, and other important water infrastructure projects in all 50 states. Not only will this allow for much-needed infrastructure improvements, but the bill reinstates a “Buy America” provision for federally funded projects, meaning a boost for American steel producers.

Commonsense legislation like this will create jobs, incentivize the use of American-made products, and build our nation’s capabilities to produce, package, and transport goods all around the globe. It will also make our drinking water safer, improve our wastewater systems, combat algae blooms, and restore our nation’s beaches through grant programs.

The Army Corps of Engineers can move forward on improving our dams, locks, reservoirs, and shipping channels. We have a major Army Corps project that needs attention right here in Southwest Alabama. The project to deepen and widen the Mobile Bay Ship Channel has the ability to fundamentally alter the economic potential of the Port and create more jobs in our state. Senator Richard Shelby has long been a champion for this project, and I am committed to working with him to make it a reality.

Our shipyards, airports, and rail yards will all see an impact from waterway projects like this, and I am thankful to the members of the Senate and my colleagues in the House for passing this water infrastructure legislation to help propel Alabama even further into the 21st Century.

The future of Alabama rests upon our ability to look beyond the short term and into what will set us up for success for years to come. Focusing locally on important infrastructure projects will spur economic growth through business investment and job creation, and it will open up opportunities we don’t even know exist yet.

Investing in our infrastructure today will lead to a stronger tomorrow. I applaud the work of my colleagues in both the House and the Senate in making a better economic future possible through this vital water infrastructure legislation.


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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Retiring Republican state senator: Alabama should expand Medicaid

Gerald Dial



I was born in Delta, Alabama, and I have spent the majority of my life in Lineville, working as a teacher, a coach, and as a state senator in the Alabama Legislature. I served my country in the Alabama National Guard as a Brigadier General and have a strong sense of duty for the state of Alabama. I know the joys and the challenges of life in rural Alabama, and I am committed to keeping our rural areas strong.

As a retiring legislator and a former chairman of the State Senate Health Committee, I can appreciate the struggles our lawmakers face in trying to fund key state services. However, I also understand the importance of quality health care in our local communities, and I believe that by not expanding Medicaid we are missing a huge opportunity to strengthen our local economies.

For years, we have used state dollars to recruit industries to locate in Alabama, and we have been very successful. We now have an opportunity to support existing health care jobs and make sure every Alabamian has access to care when they need it, and where they need it. Investing in Medicaid expansion will keep our rural hospitals open, save hundreds of local jobs, and provide basic insurance coverage to almost 300,000 Alabamians. These are our friends and neighbors, hardworking Alabamians who don’t earn enough to afford health insurance. They work in our local restaurants, in our local retail shops and build our houses. Medicaid expansion would enable them to continue working while keeping their family healthy.

What happens if Alabama passes up this opportunity? More hospitals will close. Already, six rural hospitals have closed since 2011, and 88 percent of the remaining rural facilities continue to operate but are losing money every day, providing care to thousands of un-insured individuals. Many have had to eliminate services, cut staff and, if nothing changes, a number of them will likely have to close their doors. And when a community loses its hospital, it also loses doctors, pharmacies, and other providers, devastating the community not only in terms of access to health care, but in job and economic losses.

I realize we don’t have all the answers on how Medicaid expansion will be funded. But I do know that for every $1 the state invests, the federal government will return $10 to the state. That’s a good deal for Alabama and one that we can’t afford to pass up. And remember, that federal funding comes from tax dollars we are already sending to Washington, dollars currently funding expanded Medicaid programs in 33 other states and in Washington, D.C. Instead of sending our money out of state, let’s invest that money in Alabama’s health care industry.


We’ve got to find a way to keep our state’s health care system viable. I urge all Alabamians to find out more about Medicaid expansion and the tremendous benefit it will have, particularly in our rural areas. I’m afraid that the cost of doing nothing is too great.

Gerald Dial represents District 13 in the Alabama State Senate, which includes all or parts of Randolph, Lee, Cleburne, Clay, Cherokee, and Chambers counties.


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Opinion | The importance of civil asset forfeiture

by Dave Sutton Read Time: 4 min