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Understanding California’s civil forfeiture laws

| May 24, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

When California authorities believe you engaged in some type of criminal activity, asset forfeiture laws may come into play. Asset forfeiture occurs when the government takes possession of assets it believes underwent use in some type of criminal activity. Authorities may take ownership of houses, vehicles, money, weapons, drugs or any other items or possessions they believe were either used to commit a crime or secured while a crime was in process.

Per the Institute for Justice, authorities need to reach a certain standard of proof before they may seize your assets. However, what that standard of proof is depends on the type of crime in question.

Asset forfeiture in traditional circumstances

In most cases, the standard of proof needed for asset forfeiture is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means a conviction has to take place first. However, the conviction does not necessarily have to be your own, and this holds true even when you are the owner of the property undergoing forfeiture.

Asset forfeiture in drug cases

In certain drug cases, the burden of proof needed for asset forfeiture is lower. In drug cases where authorities seize more than $25,000, they only need to have clear and convincing evidence to do so, rather than a conviction.

If you did not commit any type of criminal activity but authorities seized your property anyway, you may be able to get that property back, depending on circumstances. In this scenario, the government has to prove that you knew someone used the property in an illegal manner in order to keep that property from you.