What is civil asset forfeiture?
Civil forfeiture allows law enforcement to seize, then keep or sell, property that has allegedly been involved in criminal activity. Civil forfeiture laws are intended to be a tool in fighting against organized crime by seizing their ill-gotten gains and using them against other criminals. Sometimes, these laws work as intended, hurting criminal organizations and returning stolen property to its original owner.
However, these laws are being abused. Criminals are not the only ones being targeted by asset forfeiture. Many victims are relatives or loved ones of the accused. The police only need to suspect that your property was or was intended to be used in a crime. You do not actually have to be accused of a crime to become a victim of civil forfeiture.
What can be taken in a civil seizure?
Under civil forfeiture laws in Arizona, the property itself is charged with involvement in the crime. You can be completely innocent but still have your assets taken because they do not have the same rights as you do. If law enforcement finds any reason to suspect that your property was involved with a crime or purchased with money from a crime, it may be seized.
Law enforcement has the right to seize:
- Money/bank accounts
Can I really lose my property without being convicted of a crime?
First you need to understand the difference between civil and criminal forfeiture. Under criminal forfeiture laws, your guilt must be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt” before your property can be taken. However, civil forfeiture laws are not as strict. Your assets are accused of the crime, and they do not share the same right to be “innocent until proven guilty.”
Is civil forfeiture unconstitutional?
Unfair cases of seizure still happen even in states with strict civil forfeiture laws. A federal program called the Equitable Sharing program allows state police to seize property under federal laws instead of state laws. The assets are turned over to the federal government, which then returns 80% of those assets to the state. State law enforcement can then use those assets as they please.
When it comes to civil asset forfeiture, the ACLU believes these laws are “constitutionally problematic” as they can legally punish an innocent person without following the due process of the law. However, these laws are still in place and civil forfeiture remains legal at both the state and federal levels.
I’m innocent and was not involved in any crime. Do I still need a lawyer to get my property back?
Most civil forfeiture cases do not end well for the victims because they choose not to challenge the seizure of their assets. Law enforcement officials may pressure innocent people into giving up their possessions to avoid being charged with a crime they did not commit. Fighting back is difficult, especially without professional help. Most people in this situation choose to simply forfeit their property. However, the attorneys at JacksonWhite believe your personal property is worth fighting for and will help return what is rightfully yours.
How can a lawyer help with my asset forfeiture case?
This is an extremely difficult case to fight on your own. Our civil forfeiture attorneys in Mesa will ensure that your belongings are rightfully returned to you, and provide the support you need every step of the way.
Call us now at (480) 422-3450 to find out how JacksonWhite can help you get your property back.