Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws Overhauled to Check Police Power (Pt. 1)

January 25, 2015

Earlier this month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced some significant changes to civil asset forfeiture laws that will now put some better checks in place on law enforcement officials’ power when taking people’s property as part of an “investigation.” In fact, as Eric Holder explained, local and state police will now NOT be allowed to use federal civil asset forfeiture laws to take people’s property until:

  • They have obtained warrants from the court to do so; or
  • Criminal charges have been officially filed in the case against people whose property is to be seized.

What Led to the Changes in Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws

Civil asset forfeiture laws have recently been overhauled to put more checks on police’s power to take people’s property. Here’s more info on these changes.

Civil asset forfeiture laws have recently been overhauled to put more checks on police’s power to take people’s property. Here’s more info on these changes.

This remarkable reform to civil asset forfeiture laws effectively reverses parts of federal statutes that have been in place for decades as part of the war on drugs. Essentially, prior to Holder’s announcement of these reforms, civil asset forfeiture laws:

  • Had provisions that permitted law enforcement authorities to take people’s cash and other property during traffic stops or other interactions even those these people were never charged with crimes later
  • Had, as a result, led to policing in which people’s “property was guilty until proven innocent,” as people were only able to reclaim their seized assets if they could prove that these assets were obtained through legal means
  • Had led to state and local authorities seizing assets valued at more than $3 billion.

Support for the Changes to Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws

Supporting the recent changes to civil asset forfeiture laws include civil liberties advocates, as well as some lawmakers, who have viewed these statutes as being in opposition to some core values of the U.S. criminal justice system, such as the right to due process.

As Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) has stated in support of these changes to civil asset forfeiture laws, “we’re going to have a fairer justice system because of it… the rule of law ought to protect innocent people, and civil asset forfeiture hurt a lot of people.”

Representative James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) echoed this support of the recent changes to civil asset forfeiture laws, stating “I commend the department for this step and look forward to working with them on comprehensive forfeiture reform that protects Americans’ property rights… equitable Sharing has become a tool too often used to bypass state law.”

We will continue this discussion regarding the changes to civil asset forfeiture laws in an upcoming second part of this blog series – be sure to check it out!

Montgomery and Birmingham Asset Forfeiture Attorneys at Joe M. Reed & Associates LLC

Have your assets been seized by law enforcement officials? Or have you received a notice of authorities’ intent to seize your assets? If so, you can count on the Montgomery and Birmingham asset forfeiture lawyers at Joe M. Reed & Associates LLC to be aggressive advocates for your rights. For more than 16 years, we have been dedicated to the pursuit of justice, making us effective at helping our clients obtain the best possible outcomes to their important legal matters.

Contact Us

You are invited to attend an initial consultation to discuss your case and learn more about your rights. To set up this meeting today, call us at (334) 834-2000, or email us using the contact form at the top of this page. Initial consultations are free in most cases, and evening and weekend appointments are available for your convenience.

Categories: Asset Forfeiture, Blog, Criminal Defense