Reports of illegal searches and asset forfeiture abuses have become more common in the news, and many people are beginning to wonder how they can protect themselves against unauthorized actions by law enforcement.
In their zeal to stop illegal activities, police in Arizona may overstep the bounds of the law in their pursuit of criminal actions. Each state has their own laws regarding the taking of property that is involved in criminal or illegal acts. To ensure that all legal protections have been afforded to you in these circumstances, you may need to seek legal counsel.
A search and seizure attorney in Arizona can inform residents about their rights under the law.
When Does Law Enforcement Use Search and Seizure?
Search and seizure are concepts used in the investigation and prosecution of criminal and civil violations of the law. Searches are important in finding evidence that links guilty parties to the commission of the crime. Seizure of assets is often used to make the case on motive for the crime.
If an individual has materially profited from a crime, it increases the likelihood of their being found guilty and an appropriate punishment imposed on them. Searches and seizures of assets must be conducted under the requirements of the 4th amendment of the United States Constitution, which offers protections for citizens against confiscation of material assets by the state, without due process of law.
Legal and Illegal Searches
The 4th amendment protections apply to any person who is engaged by a law enforcement official employed by the state. The protections apply whether the individual is stopped on the street, in their vehicles, at their places of business, in hotel rooms or in their homes. In any situation in which an “expectation” of privacy exists, the protections against illegal search and seizure apply.
However, each state legislates additional procedures in order to clarify situations in which a search or seizure may be required. Law enforcement searches are one of the most contentious of actions because judges often take the most expansive interpretation of statutes to allow investigation of crimes. As a result, searches are sometimes conducted in violation of Constitutional protections and may be invalid.
Understanding Asset Forfeiture
Asset forfeiture takes another route to convict individuals of criminal activity. It seizes assets, such as houses, cars, jewelry, artwork and other valuables, even when they belong to individuals who are not directly involved in any crime, to make a case against an individual.
The problem of forfeiture abuse occurs in every state in the country, even in states that have strong legal prohibitions against it. Unfortunately, assets seized by law enforcement are often designated for the benefit of these agencies, so the inducement to seize property whether or not it is actually involved in criminal activity is strong.
Criminal and Civil Forfeitures
Asset forfeitures are conducted either on criminal grounds or on civil grounds. Criminal asset forfeitures are performed as part of the prosecution of a crime. Civil forfeitures are instituted as payment for violations against civil law, such as for non-performance of a contract. In either case, the forfeiture can be challenged in court. In some forfeitures, the owner may not even be named.
The property itself can be charged with a crime. In order to have your property returned to them, individuals must prove their innocence of a crime. Only then, can they hope to have their property returned to them. Many individuals attempt to represent themselves in court, but the law in regard to forfeitures is complex and difficult to interpret in many cases. The use of professional legal counsel is recommended to achieve a successful outcome.
Common Asset Forfeiture Abuses
The problem of abuse of asset forfeiture laws has become common is news stories from around the country. In many cases, the owners of the assets do not have to be convicted of any crime or wrongful activity, nor do they even have to be arrested to have their property taken.
The assets simply have to be named in an investigation in order for to be available for forfeiture. This looseness of interpretation has led to individuals taking governments to court to recover their assets, time spent on legal actions for wrongful forfeitures in the court system and public money being used to defend forfeiture actions.
Search and Seizure Laws
Search and seizure laws of Arizona can cause particular problems for residents of the state. In some cases, law enforcement has no need to provide any immediate proof of cause for forfeiture. It is up to the owner to file a case to claim ownership of the property and show that it was not involved in an alleged crime or civil dispute. In addition, the owners of property have to pay the legal costs of the state if they fail to successfully prove their case.
So an innocent party in a forfeiture case may be punished twice. First, losing their property in a false claim of involvement in an illegal action, and then, a second time, if they fail to prove their ownership successfully and must pay the legal costs to the state.
This has the effect of discouraging citizens from challenging an asset forfeiture in Arizona.
What To Do If Your Assets Have Been Seized in Arizona
Law enforcement is not always correct in their assessment of a situation in which a crime may have occurred. In some cases, innocent parties can become entangled in the process of investigation and prosecution, with a variety of negative consequences.
Overzealous prosecutors may seize any number of assets, including homes, vehicles or bank accounts if they believe you have profited as a result of a crime, or even if they simply feel they can get away with it. If you have been the victim of an illegal search or asset forfeiture, you require the services of an experienced attorney who knows the legal intricacies in great detail and can provide the following services:
- Research prior legal decisions that may be applicable to your case
- Determine ways to relate the circumstances of your case to prior decisions
- Utilize the applicable professional reasoning to make your case before a judge
Asset forfeiture is not always a question of justified actions by law enforcement. If you have been involved in an unauthorized search or seizure, contact a search and seizure attorney in Arizona to learn your legal recourse and how to protect your interests.
Call JacksonWhite to Get the Results You Need
If you need an Arizona search and seizure attorney then JacksonWhite Criminal Defense will provide you with the representation that you need. Do not face the courts alone.
Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 467-4370 to discuss your case today.