When someone steals your property, you call in law enforcement to help you identify the thief and recover what’s yours. But what happens when the police are the ones taking your property?
This may seem like an unlikely scenario but it happens more often than you think.
When police or law enforcement agencies believe your property was involved in a crime, civil forfeiture statutes allow them to seize the property. The question is, what can you do to get it back?
Read on to find out more about civil forfeiture laws and what you can do if your property was seized by law enforcement.
What is Civil Forfeiture?
Under civil forfeiture law, police and law enforcement have the right to seize property they believe was involved in or represents the proceeds of a crime. They do not have to have a lot of evidence tying the property to the crime to seize it.
Also, assets can be seized even if the property owner is innocent. For instance, if a third party used the property owner’s assets to commit a crime, these assets can still be seized even if the owner had nothing to do with the crime.
Before the 1980’s civil forfeiture was infrequently used and when it was utilized, it was often for very specific purposes. However, more recently, Congress modified laws allowing the government to keep the funds seized by its agencies. The expansion has grown to the point where, in just the last decade, the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Treasury Department seized nearly $29 billion worth of assets in civil forfeiture cases according to the Office of the Inspector General.
While civil forfeiture has been successful in taking down large criminal organizations, many innocent people have lost their property as a result.
What Type of Assets Can the Government Seize?
According to civil forfeiture law, the government can seize the property of any size or value as long as they believe it was associated with a crime. This includes cash, vehicles, bank accounts, real estate, and jewelry.
Because the property is targeted and not the people who own it, any type of property can be forfeited as long as law enforcement can prove it was tied to a crime.
This results in circumstances that may be considered unjust. For instance, one Philadelphia family lost their home because their son was using it to store drugs. When their 22-year-old son was arrested for selling $40 worth of heroin that he was stashing in their residence, the parents were left homeless.
What Can Be Done to Fight Civil Forfeiture?
Civil forfeiture cases are hard to fight. Property owners may be scared to move forward because they are afraid, they will be charged with a crime for trying. Furthermore, going up against the body of the government can be intimidating and difficult, to say the least.
That’s why it’s imperative to have reliable legal counsel on your side.
If you are dealing with a civil forfeiture case in the Greenville, SC area, do not hesitate to call the Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey, LLC Attorneys at Law.
The Bannister Wyatt & Stalvey, LLC team have years of experience dealing with complex civil litigation. They strive to establish trust with the people they work with. They pride themselves at a high level of integrity and they are committed to getting their clients the compensation they deserve.
If you have lost property due to civil forfeiture, don’t take it lying down. Contact the Bannister Wyatt & Stalvey team first. They will see to it that justice is served.