Asset forfeiture is really common in California. The biggest reason for this would seem to be because they are able to keep a portion of the proceeds from any assets they seize for themselves! States, like California, are participating in a program known as the “Equitable Sharing Program”. This program was indefinitely suspended but the suspension was subsequently lifted allowing the federal government to pay out to state law enforcement offices once again.
The way that this program works is that it allows for state law enforcement officials to seize property and cash under federal law from people who are even suspected of violating the law. The program gives the seizing law enforcement office an incentive to seize assets because it operates almost like a slush fund for them. They’re able to seize enough assets to be able to replenish the funds they lose in expenditures as they complete other investigations.
Law Enforcement Profits From Asset Forfeiture
This practice has led many people to worry that it is just making the police more interested in profit and less interested in being able to enforce justice. An investigation by the Washington Post in 2014, revealed that since 2001 the police had seized $2.5 billion in cash without any warrants and indictments from around 62,000 people. All of those people who had their assets seized likely have not and will not ever get their money back. However, just looking at the amount taken in 13 years is staggering. Combine that with the current political climate and it’s not hard to imagine a world where there are unwarranted arrests and seizures that can result in almost anyone having their assets taken from them and never returned.
There have been some reforms that were put into effect once the aforementioned study was released. These were meant to curb the ability that the states and law enforcement had to choose those federal laws that were more forgiving to them when compared to state law. Some of these restrictions were aimed at stopping seizures, more specifically; they were aimed at stopping seizures that resulted from joint investigations. Now, there are more steps that need to be taken before a seizure that happens at the state level can be accepted into the federal asset forfeiture program. We can only hope that this actually makes the process more difficult thereby preventing regular people from having their assets taken from them.
Fighting Asset Forfeiture
The real issue arises when people have to fight the government for their money back. It becomes an unfair fight because the government has infinite resources to be able to deny requests and many people are not able to be able to make their best case. Those who choose attorneys who are well versed in federal laws and federal courts are much more likely to be able to get their assets back because their attorney knows how best to fight the system. Asset forfeiture is growing quickly meaning it’s increasingly more likely that you could be facing an issue like this in the near future. If you are facing this type of situation, contact Orange County Criminal Attorney Karren Kenney for help.