When someone takes your property, you're expected to call the police. But who are you supposed to turn to when the police are the ones taking your property? Believe it or not, this happens all the time, as part of a practice called asset forfeiture, where police seize property from citizens based only on suspicion of wrongdoing.
Although criminal forfeiture requires the person having their property taken is convicted of a crime, civil forfeiture does not. Instead, your property will be charged with involvement in a crime, allowing police to legally confiscate it from you. Georgia is widely known for having forfeiture laws that make it especially easy for law enforcement agencies to seize property, with poor protections for innocent property owners and as much as 100% of the proceeds going directly to law enforcement.
The Equitable Sharing Program allows state and local police agencies to collaborate with federal agencies in order to seize property from individuals before transferring the seized property to federal control. This allows local agencies to skirt certain state-level regulations limiting forfeiture. Georgia has an especially high rate of equitable sharing, with police receiving an estimated 17 million each year in forfeiture proceeds.
The intention behind forfeiture laws is good, but the potential for abuse is high. Innocent people lose their property and money to forfeiture laws, and without a good criminal defense lawyer, it is unlikely they will get it back.What to Do If the Police Take Your Property
Once law enforcement officials seize your property, you will need to make a claim to it. You will have thirty days from the notice of forfeiture being sent to you to respond. After you respond, you will have to prepare a claim, laying out the facts of the property and why it should not be subjected to Georgia's forfeiture laws. You will then be required to send the claim to the police department that took your property, along with the District Attorney in charge of your case.
Your property will then be subjected to legal action to determine whether it was involved in a crime. Forfeiture proceedings use a standard known as preponderance of the evidence. This means that the burden of proof is on the person who is trying to get their property back. This standard makes it more difficult to get your property back and more likely that said property will be forfeited to the state of Georgia, should you not have good legal counsel on your side.
The recent Supreme Court case Timbs v. Indiana has made it harder for law enforcement to seize and keep your property by invoking the Eighth Amendment's excessive fines clause. Even then, many people do not know how to get their property back. That's why you should contact the Don Turner Legal Team for a free consultation today. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys can help you protect what’s yours