Drug traffickers run the risk of losing more than just their freedom, they can also lose their home. Prosecutors in Belmont County, OH are actively pursuing forfeitures–taking the person’s house as part of the sentencing.This week, Anna Marie DeVault, 56 of Bellaire, was sentenced to 30 months in prison and will lose her home on Guernsey Street. It will be auctioned off to the highest bidder, and the county will get the proceeds.
Belmont County Prosecutor Dan Fry says the Ohio Revised Code allows the state to seize property if it was used in a crime, like a house or car that drugs were sold out of. He says if the property is worthwhile, and doesn’t have liens on it, he goes for it.
In some cases, money from the sale of the homes or vehicles goes to the Belmont County Drug Task Force, who use it to continue their work arresting drug traffickers. They also seize cars and cash if they were used in the sale of drugs or if they were obtained with drug money.
The public appears to be split on the issue. Those in favor of forfeiture say it;s within the state’s ability to do so.
“I think they should be allowed to do that,” said William Nardo of Bethesda, OH. “If they’re using their house to sell illegal substances, then they should be prosecuted in every way that they can be prosecuted.”
Those opposed raise a valid concern.
“If they have a family, what are they going to do, kick the family out on the streets? A drug problem right now is like an addiction that is like heart disease or diabetes,” said Tonya Bates of Jerusalem, OH. “It needs fixed, not just taking their home and throwing them in prison.”
In the end, the county sells the house or car at auction, the money goes into the county’s coffers and someone gets a new home.
“Someone probably will get a house at a pretty good rate and at least one drug dealer’s been shut down,” Fry said. “But the point here is if there are assets worth going after, and if those assets were used to facilitate a crime, we are going to ask the court for forfeit them, each and every time.”