Although we’re about to close out 2021, one of this year’s trending topics will continue into the New Year: civil asset forfeiture. If you weren’t already familiar with this term, you probably it heard for the first time during discussions regarding the power police officers have in many parts of the country – Hidalgo County included.
What Is Civil Asset Forfeiture?
In Texas, civil asset forfeiture is the legal process that permits police officers to seize property that they claim was used, or intended to be used, in the commission of a crime. Police officers can seize property from someone even if they aren’t suspected of criminal activity. Rather, it’s their property’s role or potential role in a crime that matters most.
What Kind of Property Can Police Take?
The police can seize any property that they claim is connected to a crime or would likely be used to commit a crime, especially a crime involving a controlled substance.
Commonly seized property includes cash, cars, boats, cell phones, firearms, prescription medications, and even real estate. Keep in mind that stolen property of any kind can also be seized.
Examples of Civil Asset Forfeiture
Remember: The property owner doesn’t necessarily need to be accused of criminal activity themselves, and the police don’t need to prove that a crime has actually occurred to seize property.
With that in mind, here are a few examples of civil asset forfeiture:
- After cashing his paycheck, John is pulled over by the police. The police ask John if he has anything in his car that they should know about, mentioning items such as drugs, cash, and weapons. John mentions the cash from his paycheck, which the officer seizes after claiming to smell marijuana in the car and accusing John of drug dealing.
- Olivia owns a car that she loans to her son while his car is in for repairs. Olivia’s son is pulled over and arrested under suspicion of drug trafficking. Olivia then finds out that the police intend to seize her car even though she had no connection to her son’s alleged criminal activity.
- Tom is an amateur photographer with a passion for photographing mid-century residential architecture. While photographing homes in a new neighborhood, Tom has his camera equipment taken by police officers. The officers allege that there was a recent string of burglaries in the neighborhood and believe Tom is connected to these crimes.
Can You Stop Civil Asset Forfeiture?
As previously mentioned, civil asset forfeiture is a legal process. This means that even if your property is currently in police custody, your ownership of it isn’t officially relinquished – that can only happen when the court agrees with the police that the property should be removed from your ownership.
If your property was seized during an investigation, or the police seek to seize it, you may receive a notice of forfeiture for property the police intend to keep. When you receive this notice, you will have a limited amount of time to file an objection to the forfeiture. At this point, you should have hired legal counsel to represent you and your interest in retaining your property.
Stopping a civil asset forfeiture is possible when you have an experienced attorney like ours at The Law Office of Rene A. Flores PLLC. We understand the pain and hardship that civil asset forfeiture laws can bring to people who are already vulnerable. Losing a vehicle, cash from a paycheck, and other items of significant value can dramatically change your living situation.
If you are faced with civil asset forfeiture, reach out to our attorney at The Law Office of Rene A. Flores PLLC to learn more about how we can help you.