State/Federal Asset Forfeiture

Asset forfeiture is one of the government’s most powerful and unfair legal tools, which allows the government to take away your private property without compensation if it suspects that the property was used in the commission of a crime or bought with the proceeds of criminal activity. Technically, asset forfeiture is a proceeding against the property and not a person, so it doesn’t matter if the person has actually been found guilty of a crime or has committed a crime at all. Because an asset forfeiture proceeding is considered a civil penalty you have less rights and protections under the law. In addition, asset forfeiture laws often have strict deadlines and complicated procedures for getting your property back.

California State and Federal Asset Forfeiture Laws

California has multiple sections in the Penal Code and other sections of law that allow for state and federal asset forfeiture. The California Health and Safety Code and the California Control of Profits of Organized Crime Act are the two most common sections that the state uses for asset forfeiture. Under California law, property that can be seized under asset forfeiture laws includes the following and more:

  • Cash, bank accounts, securities, or other negotiable instruments
  • Real property (land or buildings)
  • Controlled substances
  • Raw materials
  • Vehicles, boats, and planes
  • Weapons
  • Telecommunication equipment or computers

The government has an incentive to “police for profit” when it comes to asset forfeiture because the police departments get to keep a fraction of the proceeds of anything that is seized. In California, the police get to keep 65% of all revenues generated through asset forfeiture. Recently, California has passed laws that give citizens more protection from state asset forfeiture; however, the police have used the practice of “equitable sharing” to get around the new rules.

Equitable sharing occurs when police in California give the property seized under asset forfeiture laws to federal law enforcement agencies. The property falls under federal guidelines and is handled under federal forfeiture laws, which are much stricter than California’s rules. In addition, under equitable sharing, the police get to keep 80% of the revenues generated through the property seized. According to the Institute for Justice, between the years 2000 to 2008 law enforcement agencies in California collected $305 million from revenues generated through equitable sharing asset forfeiture.

Asset Forfeiture Attorneys Can Help

The most important thing that you can do if you or a loved one is the subject of an asset forfeiture proceeding is to seek legal counsel as early as possible. With over 30 years of combined experience the attorneys at Russell J. Clanton and Associates have been helping clients in the Humboldt, Del Norte, and Trinity County areas reclaim their property from asset forfeiture claims and can help you prevent or reclaim property subject to asset forfeiture proceedings. Contact the office at 707.825.6587 for a free and confidential consultation on your case to evaluate the best strategies for recovering your personal property.