If you are accused of a crime, you may expect to lose certain rights. However, you may not expect law enforcement to seize your property and hold onto it for an extended period of time. Unfortunately, that is exactly what can happen to you under a new federal policy to increase asset forfeiture that has been implemented by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
What is Civil Asset Forfeiture?
Civil asset forfeiture is when law enforcement seizes the property of suspected criminals, including cash, drugs, guns and any other assets. The general rule regarding asset forfeiture is that the assets seized must have some connection to a crime. This tactic is meant to prevent criminals and criminal organizations from using the property to commit new crimes and fund illegal activity, as well as weaken criminal infrastructure.
Under the civil asset forfeiture program, law enforcement can keep or sell property that is connected with a crime. Money gained from selling seized assets may be used to fund training or purchase new vehicles and equipment for law enforcement agencies.
How Civil Asset Forfeiture Has Changed in Trump Administration
Under Sessions, the federal government is instituting and encouraging a policy called “adoption.” This process allows the federal government to share in the proceeds from property seized by local law enforcement agencies when the activity that caused the property to be taken is in violation of federal law. Before the federal government can use funds from seized assets, local law enforcement is required to show that the seizure was justified by probable cause.
This policy is in direct contrast from that of former Attorney General Eric Holder, who banned federal agency adoption of property in early 2015 except in limited circumstances. President Donald Trump previously stated he wished to rescind Holder’s policies.
Why is This Policy a Big Deal?
Civil asset forfeiture is a controversial topic because it allows the property of anyone suspected of a crime to be seized by law enforcement. The issue with this is that being convicted or even charged with a crime is not required to seize your property.
Despite Sessions emphasizing that there are safeguards in place to prevent authorities from abusing the abusing the practice of asset forfeiture, there are many people opposed to this practice. Some lawmakers believe that law enforcement will seize property unnecessarily to pad budgets.
“The problem is that we are not talking about criminals. We are talking about Americans who have had their homes, cars, money and other property taken through civil forfeiture, which requires only mere suspicion that the property is connected to a crime,” Kanya Bennett, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, told CNN.
Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime, it is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney today. At Wallin & Klarich our skilled criminal defense attorneys have over 35 years of experience defending our clients and protecting their rights. Let us help you now.
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