“The police seized my car because my husband was found driving it with marijuana in the vehicle,” a recent concerned wife who retained me stated. Welcome to the world of civil asset forfeiture. In drug cases, forfeiture proceedings in civil court customarily precede any case where the arresting officer thinks that the suspect is a drug dealer.
Asset forfeiture proceedings is where the cars and boats for police auctions come from. Further, in some cases, forfeiture laws have been held to apply to bank accounts and even houses.
Asset forfeiture brings in millions of dollars each year that law enforcement entities can then use for their budgets.
Forfeiture proceedings are governed by Georgia’s Civil Practice Act and other specific code sections in Title 16 of the Georgia code. See generally, OCGA 16-13-49 et seq.
Historically, Georgia’s Civil Asset Forfeiture laws have been rated as among the worst in the nation in regards to protecting the property rights guaranteed to us by our Federal Constitution and our Founders. See Amendment V.
John Locke, whose ideas heavily influenced our Founders, stated that the three central rights of every human were “life, liberty, and property.” To Locke, the State was created to protect these rights — not destroy them based on unsubstantiated allegations. How far we have come from the ideals of our Founders when a traffic stop that may or may not be good can lead to the seizure of an innocent owner’s property!
President Obama, through his then-attorney-general, Eric Holder, recently issued an executive order stating that he was ending a federal program whereby state and local agencies could cooperate with federal agencies in asset forfeiture. Eric Holder’s order ended the federal Equitable Sharing program for asset forfeiture involving charges that do not involve firearms, ammunition, or explosives. This was a sweeping change in a law that previously allowed state and local officials to use federal law to seize cash and other assets suspected to be associated with drug transactions.
If you or a loved one’s property has been seized due to criminal allegations, call the Law Offices of Mark Jones today for a free legal consultation regarding your case.