U.S. Attorney Justin Herman confirmed that his office collected $28,603,085 in civil and criminal actions in the fiscal year 2020. Of that amount, approximately $21 million was collected from civil actions, and almost $7 million was collected from criminal actions.
“This year, when many of our processes and procedures were forced to change due to the pandemic, the Northern District was nonetheless able to recover a substantial number of funds from numerous civil and criminal judgments,” said U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman in a press release. “When we represent the United States of America and secure a collection judgment, we will seek to recover every dollar possible.”
Herdman’s office also collected an additional $11,469,460 from civil and criminal asset forfeiture actions during the fiscal year, according to the press release. Civil asset forfeiture is a controversial tool that gives law enforcement the power to seize cash and property they believe is connected to a crime, sometimes without charging the property owner with a crime. The practice is different from criminal forfeiture, which requires prosecutors to prove in court that an individual is guilty of a crime before seizing any property connected to the case.
Critics of civil forfeiture argue that it violates property owners’ due process rights and gives police a financial stake in the process. This impression is exacerbated by the fact that forfeiture proceeds are often absorbed into law enforcement budgets.
Ohio recently received a ‘D-’ grade for its civil forfeiture laws in a report published by the Institute for Justice (IJ) that examines the strictness of every state’s forfeiture laws. In the third edition of its “Policing for Profit” report, IJ lauded Ohio for having a “somewhat higher bar to forfeit” and limited protections for innocent property owners, but it also slammed the state for enabling a large profit incentive, since 100 percent of forfeiture proceeds go to law enforcement.
Ohio has passed some civil forfeiture reforms in recent years. In 2017, House Bill 347 was signed into law by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and the state now requires a criminal conviction before law enforcement can permanently seize property in many civil forfeiture cases. Ohio became one of 11 states to have similar or stricter requirements for civil forfeiture.
However, until Ohio’s lawmakers pass more meaningful reform, innocent property owners remain in danger of losing their seized property to law enforcement without due process. Anyone who has had their cash or property seized by police should immediately consult a civil asset forfeiture attorney. After all, just because the government has confiscated your property does not mean your property cannot be lawfully recovered.
South Florida Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney
Has your property been seized by police or federal agents? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation and work with a nationwide federal civil asset forfeiture attorney.