The Odessa Police Department photographed on June 12, 2020.
Local law enforcement agencies seized just over $1.3 million in cash from suspected drug dealers and alleged illegal gambling establishments from 2019-2021, enabling them to invest in technology and equipment upgrades.
According to records obtained from the Ector County District Attorney’s Office through the Texas Public Information Act, the Odessa Police Department did 90% of the seizing, taking in $1.18 million. The Ector County Sheriff’s Office seized just under $81,000 and DPS took in just over $48,000 during that three-year time frame.
According to Texas state laws, law enforcement officers are allowed to seize cash and property they believe are the ill-gotten gains of criminal activity. Ector County District Attorney Dusty Gallivan is then required to file a civil forfeiture action in District Court, giving the cash and property owners an opportunity to disprove the cash and property are the result of illegal activities.
“We never have hearings on those cases because they usually don’t show up,” Gallivan said.
Seizing property and cash and filing forfeiture proceedings have caused controversies in other jurisdictions, but Gallivan said he will not file forfeiture actions unless criminal charges have been filed against the defendant or his office is close to pursuing a criminal case.
“Legally there doesn’t have to be a conviction,” Gallivan said. “My policy is we will not seize funds or property unless there’s an associated criminal case. The case may not have been resolved yet, but they’ve been charged with something whether it’s in the state system or the federal system, because occasionally you’ll get drug cases where they’ll seize money, but it’s not of the quantity that the feds want to deal with it, but the drugs were high enough the feds want it. So the criminal case goes federal and we take the forfeiture action.”
Filing only when there is a criminal case is fair, he said.
“I don’t get to break into your house and steal your TV and then, when they arrest me for doing that, keep your TV. So I mean, it goes the same with any other crime, but not all prosecutors have that philosophy,” he said. “I can’t speak for everybody across the state. That’s how we do it here.”
According to records, the law enforcement agencies have also seized vehicles, televisions, drones, power tools and a sound bar in recent years. OPD records show a few of the vehicles have been kept for use by undercover officers, the rest of the property has been auctioned off.
Records show that while the vast majority of the …….