Civil forfeiture is a process in which the police can take assets and property from a person suspected of criminal activity without actually charging them with a crime. The assets taken then go on “trial” and must be proven innocent before they are returned to their rightful owner. While most civil procedures involve one private citizen vs. another private citizen, a civil forfeiture is the police vs. your possessions.
To get back their belongings, owners must go to court and prove their possessions are not the result of criminal activity and should be returned. While civil forfeiture has been a key aspect in shutting down many drug cartels and other illegal activities, certain police departments have abused this law in recent years, hurting many of the citizens they are meant to protect.
Civil Forfeiture Abuse
When you are charged with a crime, you have the right to a trial, an attorney, and are considered innocent until proven guilty. However, in civil forfeiture, it is not you, but your possessions that are on trial. You must then hire an attorney to prove that your belongings are not the result or used for criminal activity. Even if you are never charged with a crime, the government can seize your money, car or home.
In the past, the police were allowed to keep everything that was forfeited. The money they got from civil forfeiture is then used to fund their own departments, giving them incentive to unfairly and unjustly seize citizens’ property. Today, steps are being taken to end the abuse and protect the rights of the people, and their property.
Changes to Civil Forfeiture
In January, Attorney General Eric Holder announced changes to the federal civil asset forfeiture program, limiting the ability of local law enforcement agencies to seize property. Under the new rules, federal agencies are only allowed to take assets seized by local police departments if the property includes “materials concerning public safety.” This includes firearms, ammunitions, explosives and child pornography. These new guidelines make it harder for certain citizens to have their property seized, making it harder for police to exploit this law.
Protecting Your Rights
If you have any other questions about civil forfeiture laws, contact the Khonsari Law Group today. We are dedicated to helping you understand and fight for your civil rights. Call KLG today for a free consultation on your case.