There is an aspect of the criminal justice system which, on the face of it, seems to be the opposite of justice, and that is civil asset forfeiture. Civil asset forfeiture occurs when the government seizes property under suspicion of its involvement in illegal activity. The person does not need to be charged with a crime for the police to seize his or her property, and the burden of proof is then on the person whose money or property was taken to prove that the property was not involved in any illegal activity or obtained as a result of criminal activity.
Asset forfeiture can be used against anyone whether they have committed a crime or not. The government only needs the suspicion that the property was used to commit a crime or received because of a criminal act to seize it. The government can seize all kinds of property including:
- Other types of property
Civil asset forfeiture
Law enforcement does not need a criminal conviction or even formal charges to seize property. All they needed was the suspicion that they property was used to commit a crime, which left a lot of room for abuse and corruption in civil asset forfeitures. In July 2017, Mississippi reformed its civil forfeiture law, and now requires a civil seizure warrant before property may be taken.
Criminal asset forfeiture
For criminal asset forfeiture, there must be a criminal conviction to prove that the property was used in criminal activity.
Asset forfeiture reform in Mississippi
Given that the law allows the law enforcement agency that seized the property to retain 80% of the proceeds, local law enforcement can abuse this power and view it to generate revenues. In 2017, Mississippi passed a civil asset forfeiture reform law which includes changes to the way asset forfeitures are handled in Mississippi.
The new law (House Bill 812) includes:
- Reporting guidelines for law enforcement to report the details about every asset seizure, its location, value and disposition
- Development and maintenance of a searchable database to track seized property
- A new warrant system that would require a judge to issue a civil seizure warrant within 72-hours excluding weekends and holidays. The law enforcement agency would have to inform the judge on what was taken, why it was seized and provide probable cause to justify the seizure. If the judge fails to issue a warrant, the property must be returned.
- The local district attorney or the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics will prosecute all forfeitures, thus eliminating the need for law enforcement to hire outside counsel.
Whether you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor a felony, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer who will fight for your rights. Your Constitutional rights must be asserted and protected, and you are entitled to present a defense. At Taylor Jones Taylor, our Southaven criminal defense attorneys provide strong advocacy for clients in Olive Branch, Hernando, Southaven, and surrounding areas. To make an appointment, please phone 662-342-1300, or fill out our contact form today.