People who live in this country have specific rights that are guaranteed by the United States Constitution. One of these is the Fourth Amendment right to not have to endure unreasonable seizures and searches. Another is the Eighth Amendment right to not have to pay excessive fines, fees or forfeitures. These two fundamental rights intersect in the asset seizure and forfeiture process.
A recent ruling by the United States Supreme Court, written by Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, makes it clear that the Constitution applies to state and local governments, as well as the federal government. No government entity has the right to seize assets that are disproportionate to the crime. In the case, a man’s $42,000 Land Rover, which was purchased legally with his father’s life insurance policy proceeds, was seized when he was caught selling $400 of drugs.
Representatives of the government entities assert that they have a right to seize these assets, regardless of the value of the items, just so that they can’t be used in criminal activity. The issue here is that there aren’t always criminal charges levied even when there are assets seized. Those assets might not be returned, despite the lack of charges.
When the assets are sold, the proceeds go to local law enforcement agencies, which sometimes look for loopholes like the Federal Equitable Sharing law. The recent Supreme Court ruling, which was supported by both liberal and conservative Justices, might end that practice.
It is common for police officers to seize assets that they claim were part of a drug operation. If you are facing a drug charge, you have to think about your defense against the criminal matter. You may also have to battle to get your assets back. There are strict time limits for this, so find out what you need to do if it applies to your case.