Following an arrest for suspicion of committing a crime, you may have many issues to deal with. Understanding the charges against you, examining the evidence and building a defense strategy are just a few of the details to which you must attend. You may also have to deal with personal matters, such as shielding your loved ones from the fallout and protecting your reputation. However, have you considered what may happen to your assets after your arrest?
In California and several other states, law enforcement has the right to seize any assets they believe have a connection to the crime of which you face accusations. This can include your cash, your vehicle and potentially your home. Civil asset forfeiture, particularly common when drug crimes are involved, is a complex and controversial process, and you may have limited options for preserving or reclaiming those items you lose after your arrest.
Why did they take my property?
Police and other agencies have every incentive for taking your assets. The property they seize and the proceeds from the sale of that property go directly into their agency’s budget, and many departments rely heavily on asset forfeiture for their operations. For that reason, any assets an officer or agent believes you may have used to commit a crime or obtained through the profits of a crime are fair game for seizure. You may not realize the following facts about asset forfeiture in most states:
- Authorities do not have to prove the assets have a connection to the crime. In fact, you will have to show there is no connection if you want your assets back.
- Officers may seize and keep your assets even if your arrest does not lead to criminal charges or to a conviction.
- Agencies that seize assets do not always have to report the property they take, what happens to the assets or how they use the proceeds.
While several states have banned asset forfeiture and others have reformed their policies to place reasonable restrictions on the use of asset forfeiture, these states then often increase their cooperation with the federal agencies that generously share the profits they garner when they seize assets for federal crimes. Originally conceived as a method for preventing criminals from benefitting from their drug-related crimes, the practice of seizing property often violates the rights of ordinary citizens, especially since there is an unfairly stacked deck in favor of law enforcement.