Cash Forfeiture Rules

A Primer on Dirty Money

by John Burnett

NPR.org, June 15, 2008

What is asset or cash forfeiture? Asset forfeiture is the confiscation of assets associated with the commission of a crime. It can be real estate, vehicles or currency. The federal law, passed in 1986, encourages police agencies to seize drug assets as a way to deny the narcotics cartels their profits and boost the crime-fighting budgets of the agencies. The states all passed their own asset forfeiture laws, which in many ways mimic the federal statute. What’s the difference between criminal and civil forfeiture? In criminal forfeiture, the taking of property is usually carried out after the owner is convicted of a crime. In civil forfeiture, the government seizes the property — in this case, the currency — without ever charging the person with a crime. The government must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the money is dirty; then it’s up to the owner to prove that his cash is clean. To defend the money requires hiring a lawyer, who often charges more than the amount of the seized cash. What are some of the rules of asset forfeiture?

Rules for Cash Forfeiture

Federal and state laws, in general, say that a law enforcement agency that seizes assets may not “supplant” its own budget with confiscated funds, nor should “the prospect of receiving forfeited funds … influence relative priorities of law enforcement agencies.” NPR has found examples, mainly in the South, in which both of these things have happened. What can law enforcement agencies use seized assets for? In general, they’re supposed to be used for law enforcement purposes, such as equipment, training or first-year salaries. They are supposed to be a supplement to a police budget. Prosecutors can also use seized drug assets for the official purposes of their offices. at Joe M. Reed & Associates, LLC, we’re here to get your cash back, and then some, from this disturbing epidemic.