One of the most controversial elements of criminal investigations is the practice of asset forfeiture. This is the law that gives police permission to seize money, cars and other property they believe was involved in or the result of a crime. The intent of the law was initially to de-incentivize criminal enterprises.
However, over time, the process has been abused and manipulated; in some states, you don’t even need to be arrested or charged with a crime to lose your property. Many states, including Florida, have passed bills to make asset forfeiture more difficult, but the fact is that asset forfeiture is still a very real problem for Americans. And Attorney General Jeff Sessions just announced plans to actually increase these efforts.
According to recent remarks from Sessions, he stated the federal government’s intent to increase asset forfeiture, especially with regard to drug traffickers. He stated that he intends to develop new policies and carry out such actions “with care,” but the fact is that many people see the practice as anything but careful.
In some jurisdictions, money, cars, jewelry and other items can be seized for no valid reason. Police departments can then keep and use these assets to increase their own budget. While people can ultimately get their property back, doing so often requires so much work and time that many never see their property again.
Instead of de-incentivizing criminal activity, critics argue that asset forfeiture has become an incentive for police to abuse the system and prioritize profits over protecting communities.
As much as supporters might say that asset forfeiture is reserved only for situations involving convicted drug criminals profiting from crime, the fact is that these efforts do affect innocent people who are never charged with any crime, including drug trafficking.
Unfortunately, this problem could only get worse if Sessions’ pledge to increase efforts pans out. If you have questions or concerns about your rights regarding civil asset forfeitures, then it can be a good idea to consult a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights and your property.