Civil Asset Forfeiture in Arizona
Are law enforcement agencies effectively ‘stealing’ when they confiscate and sell people’s property under civil asset forfeiture laws? Read on and you’ll likely agree that there is a definite conflict of interest.
Civil asset forfeiture laws allow authorities to confiscate property including cars, money, real estate, etc. that they allege has been involved in a crime, even when the owner is never charged or convicted of said crime. The authorities are able to sell this seized property for profit with the funds usually being deposited into the state treasury or other supervised funds. This practice would appear to have a conflict of interest with the government profiting by confiscating citizen’s property. However, in Arizona the situation is even worse with the profits from the sale of seized assets actually going directly to the agencies that seize the property. This money is used to pay for retirement funds, overtime, salaries, medical expenses, etc. For police budgets that always seem to be low that is a serious conflict of interest! Those that directly have the authority to seize and sell the property are also the ones that get to reap the rewards.
In Arizona the owner of seized assets can claim an innocent owner defense in situations where the owner wasn’t the one actually involved in the alleged criminal activity. Such an example is discussed in a recent online article linked below. However, Arizona has a requirement that if the innocent owner defense is denied that person is required to pay both their own attorney fees as well as the state’s. Due to the high cost and possible repercussions many are unable or unwilling to try reclaiming their property and are forced to let the government take what is theirs.
In the case in the article a lawsuit has been issued against the state that asks among other things to have Arizona’s forfeiture laws declared unconstitutional as they violate specific individual amendment rights. Arizona is not the only state where these laws have become a hot topic. When viewed as a whole, it isn’t hard to imagine such laws being abused for the enticing benefits that can be secured for cash strapped government budgets.
If civil asset forfeiture laws are ever used to confiscate your property consider securing the services of a competent lawyer to assist you in regaining what is yours.