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South Carolina Police Department Uses DOJ’s Equitable Sharing Program in Asset Forfeiture Case

cj-dayrit-NhjRIZpiKQI-unsplash-300x200Back in 2019, South Carolina’s Greer Police Department seized a man’s cash from the trunk of his vehicle. According to the police report, the incident occurred after an officer discovered a man asleep inside his car early in the morning.

The officer allegedly found evidence that the man smoked marijuana and was intoxicated. The man was arrested and charged with public intoxication and transporting alcohol in an open container. He pleaded guilty, and that was the end of the criminal proceedings against him. However, it was only the beginning of his civil asset forfeiture troubles.

The Greer man would be involved in another lawsuit because police took away cash totaling $70,000 from his car. They justified the forfeiture by saying the money must have had illegal origins; they speculated that it was profit from peddling drugs. However, having found no evidence to support that claim, they alleged that it must have been the profits from selling counterfeits. Either way, they kept the money and refused to give it back.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new in the world of civil asset forfeiture. Most of the time, authorities need only to suspect the assets they seize were involved in a crime. They are under no obligation to prove their claim. More often than not, property owners are discouraged from entering a civil lawsuit because in most states, the civil asset forfeiture laws seem to lean in the authorities’ favor.

A key factor in the Greer man’s case is the actions of the authorities following the forfeiture. They took the matter to a federal level by forwarding the seized money to a federal agency. This is legal under the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program, which allows local authorities to bypass state law. Under the program, police can enlist the help of a federal agency to fight crime. The proceeds from property seized in such an investigation will be given to the federal agency, which takes its cut and returns around 80% of the money back to the local authorities.

Needless to say, both federal agencies and local law enforcement significantly benefit from the revenues of this system. A study from LaSalle University speculates around $338 million in annual gains from civil asset forfeiture based on data collected from the DOJ and Treasury Department. Property rights activists cite this as a prime motivation for state seizures.

The only chance property owners have in fighting civil asset forfeitures is often hiring a competent lawyer. In a system that doesn’t give any benefit of the doubt to ordinary citizens, you can depend on a good civil forfeiture lawyer to fight for your rights. Seeking help when the laws seem to deny your constitutional rights to property is always worth it.

Like the Greer man, if your lawful property was unjustly seized from you, then you should prepare to take it back. With the right attorney who is willing to defend you, your forfeiture case can be a thing of the past.

Nationwide Federal Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney

Has law enforcement taken your property using civil forfeiture? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation and get the assistance of a nationwide federal civil asset forfeiture attorney.

Source: 4.9.21 How South Carolina police seized a man’s cash and sidestepped state law.pdf

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