An Open Letter from Sheriff Craig on House Bill One


February 15, 2013
To Citizens of Pickens,
I am writing to request the help of all Pickens County Citizens in our efforts to keep drug dealers off of our streets.
It has been my personal observation that the majority of all crime in our county and the State of Georgia is directly associated in with illicit drugs. The so-called “War on Drugs” in America has been a dismal failure, and the fact of the matter is the sale of illegal drugs is the most profitable business in America.

Last year the Georgia Legislature passed criminal justice reform that changed several felony crimes to misdemeanors, shifting the cost of incarcerating and supervising these criminals from the state government back to the local government and ultimately to taxpaying citizens. As incredible as it might seem, this year there is an effort being brought forth in the General Assembly that will make it significantly much more difficult for us to seize and condemn the money and assets of criminals.

It comes forth in the 92 pages of House Bill 1. I can say that the provisions of this bill will only benefit criminals and the lawyers who represent them. Our existing seizure laws have been repeatedly upheld by the appellate courts, and have been proven to be Constitutional. If it is passed, it will demoralize the law enforcement community to a point where we will see little public benefit in enforcing the law, when it comes to drug dealers and other criminal entrepreneurs.

The most effective and valuable tool the Georgia law enforcement community has, that really does harm to the illicit drug dealers and other criminals has been current seizure and forfeiture laws. These laws have enabled us, after judicial processes are completed, to take the cars, cash, and property of criminals. For a variety of reasons, drug offenders typically serve only a few months of a prison sentence before they are paroled and released. Being behind bars for only 1 year of a 20-year sentence is just a cost of doing business for them.

The Pickens Sheriff’s Office has vigorously enforced the drug laws in this county throughout my tenure in office, but no matter how hard we work the problem persists. One of the only effective tools that we have had on our side was the ability to seize the proceeds and property earned through these illegal enterprises. These seizures have saved you a tremendous amount of tax money. All of the following were acquired at no cost to the taxpayers and were paid for with money taken from criminals through judicial process:

· My fully equipped vehicle

· Radio equipment for our deputies

· Surveillance equipment for Detectives.

· Crime scene investigation equipment and materials

· Money used to make undercover purchases of drugs and pay informants

· Money used to help offset our expenditures of running our drug task force

· Many training classes

· Computer Equipment for our offices and vehicles

· Building a firearms training complex

These items are just a few things we have acquired with seized assets. I could write page after page describing numerous other things we have done with the property and money obtained as a result of our existing seizure and forfeiture laws. Unfortunately, legislators rarely seek the advice of law enforcement when considering laws of this kind. This was the case with House Bill 1. I would hope that this type of feedback would assist them in presenting legislation that can make an impact and instead of replacing the laws we have, find ways to strengthen the efforts of law enforcement throughout our state.

I believe we are very fortunate to have a Representative and a Senator who will listen to our voices. The bill has yet to come before the full Judiciary Committee and I need you to help me stop this bill. I am asking you to write, email, call, or contact our House Representative and Senator in and tell them we need them to vote NO on HOUSE BILL 1.

Contact information for your Legislators:

Rep. Rick Jasperse (District 12)
89 Apple Valley Lane
Jasper, GA 30143

Senator Steve Gooch District 51
P.O. Box 600
Dahlonega, GA 30533

Please join with me as we fight to make Pickens County a better place to live.

Donnie Craig, Sheriff
Pickens County Georgia

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