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Arizona Earns ‘D-’ Grade for Civil Asset Forfeiture Schemes in New Report

pexels-alfonso-escalante-2832251-300x200Asset forfeiture laws can be a complicated maze for experienced attorneys on the best of days. When an average person is caught up in that maze, they can end up facing a system where every turn can lead to a dead end. That was the situation Terry and Ria Platt found themselves in 2016 when the Navajo County Drug Task Force used civil forfeiture to seize their 2012 Volkswagen Jetta on Interstate 40 near Holbrook.

Police reportedly found a small amount of marijuana in the vehicle, along with drug paraphernalia and cash, but they didn’t have anything to do with those items. They allegedly tried to explain that they had loaned the vehicle to their adult son, who acknowledged ownership of the items. But unfortunately for the couple, Arizona civil forfeiture laws allow local and state law enforcement agencies to confiscate property they believe was used for criminal activity without worrying about formalities like an arrest and conviction.

Their scenario is a common one in many states. Civil asset forfeiture is a legal process that allows law enforcement agencies to seize assets such as vehicles, cash, and other valuables on the mere suspicion that it is connected to a crime, without even charging the property owner.

According to a new report titled “Policing for Profit” by Institute for Justice, Arizona’s civil forfeiture statutes earn a near-failing ‘D-’ grade when compared to similar laws in other states. Arizona has much higher procedural barriers to the courtroom as well as poor protections for the innocent, the report claims. At least 93 percent of the time, forfeiture cases proceeded in civil rather than criminal court, which meant the government needed much lower standards of proof to confiscate an individual’s property.

Arizona additionally has a large profit incentive because 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement agencies. As a result, Arizona agencies have claimed an estimated $643 million through forfeiture since 2000, according to the Institute for Justice.

With how stacked the forfeiture laws are against Arizonians, it’s unsurprising that 81 percent of property owners in the state never fight to get their property back. The couple from Holbrook reportedly couldn’t afford an attorney, so they did their best to navigate the state’s confusing laws on their own. News sources say they read the fine print, filed a petition to get their car back within the correct time frame, and submitted over two dozen pages of supporting documents. They complied with every legal requirement, but they did not include the words “under penalty of perjury” with their signatures, sources indicate. Because of that omission, prosecutors reportedly moved to prevent them from ever having their day in court.

The accused ultimately sued Navajo County in 2016, which pushed prosecutors and police to finally agree to return their vehicle. Most property owners who experience civil forfeiture aren’t as lucky. As you can see from the Platts’ case, the simple omission of four words can end up jeopardizing your case, and that’s exactly why forfeiture victims should first consult an experienced attorney before taking steps to recover their property.

Nationwide Federal Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney

Have police or federal agents seized your property using civil forfeiture? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation and work with an experienced nationwide federal civil asset forfeiture attorney.

Source: 12.26.20 Arizona earns D- for its civil forfeiture laws.pdf

Nationwide Federal Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney

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