How Police Use Civil Asset Forfeiture to Seize Money or Property

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hartford criminal defense lawyerMost people are aware of the potential consequences that they may face if they are accused of violating the law. A conviction on criminal charges can result in significant fines, jail time, probation, or other penalties, depending on the severity of the offense and the circumstances surrounding a case. However, many people do not realize that law enforcement officials may also seize people’s money or property, and this is sometimes done without a person ever being accused of or charged with a crime.

Understanding Civil Asset Forfeiture

Federal and state laws allow police officers or other law enforcement officials to seize assets that they believe are connected to a crime, including cash, vehicles, homes, or other property. If police officers have a “reasonable” belief that these assets were obtained through the proceeds of a crime, were used to further criminal activity, or were otherwise related to an alleged violation of the law, these assets can be confiscated. However, in many cases, these forfeitures occur even when a person is never officially charged with a criminal offense.

While officials often claim that civil asset forfeiture is used against drug dealers or others who are involved in serious crimes, they are much more likely to target low-income people and those who do not have the financial resources to challenge this type of seizure. One investigation found that the average amount seized by law enforcement is $1,276. In many cases, police departments keep the money or property seized through civil asset forfeiture for their own use, giving officers the incentive to confiscate cash or other valuable property whenever possible. 

As the practice of civil asset forfeiture has become more well-known, some states have taken steps to limit the ability of police departments to take these types of actions. In Connecticut, a 2017 law restricted the permanent confiscation of property to cases where a person was convicted in criminal court. However, some police departments throughout the United States have been able to get around state-level restrictions by working with the federal government. Under the Equitable Sharing Program, assets that police officers believe are related to a federal crime, such as drug trafficking, may be seized, and the police department will receive 80 percent of the amount that was confiscated.

Contact Our Hartford Criminal Defense Attorney

If your money or assets have been confiscated based on the suspicion that you have committed a crime, you may be unsure about the steps you can take to recover your property. At the Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we can help you understand your rights, and we will work with you to defend against criminal charges and determine how you can get your assets back as quickly as possible. Contact our Connecticut criminal defense lawyer at 860-290-8690 to arrange a free consultation and get the legal help you need.

 

Sources:

https://thecrimereport.org/2021/07/16/how-civil-asset-forfeiture-turns-authorities-into-bounty-hunters/

https://ij.org/press-release/connecticut-now-requires-criminal-conviction-civil-forfeiture/



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