Are you familiar with the term “civil asset forfeiture?” If not, you’re not alone. According to a Huffington Post survey, 72 percent of Americans are completely unaware of the fact that police, in many states, can seize property during criminal investigations, oftentimes keeping it. It’s a controversial part of our legal system that many should oppose, which was a point aptly made by comedian John Oliver on his show “Last Week Tonight.”
As some of our Minneapolis readers may know because of Oliver’s show or because of the increasing amount of news releases on the subject, the two main arguments against civil asset forfeiture laws are that police can keep property even if a defendant is never convicted and the burden of proof rests solely on the shoulders of defendants who want to reclaim their property. It’s because of these facts that some of today’s readers may be asking the question above:
Do I need to worry about asset forfeiture after an arrest?
Here in Minnesota, the answer is yes, only if you are convicted of a crime or if you plead guilty or become an informant. Unlike other states, Minnesota actively corrected its civil asset forfeiture laws last year when Gov. Mark Dayton signed SF 874. On top of forcing prosecutors to secure a conviction or a guilty plea, the legislation also “shifts the burden of proof onto the government” in instances where a defendant wants to get their property back.
Though you may not have to worry about police keeping your property if you are found innocent, as was the case in the past, you may still have to deal with the fact that your property still could be seized by the government during criminal investigations. It’s because of this fact that you may still feel more comfortable obtaining legal counsel in situations such as this.
Sources: The Washington Post, “Minnesota adopts law curbing asset forfeiture abuse,” Ilya Somin, May 10, 2014
The Huffington Post, “Most Americans Have No Idea How Easy It Is For Police To Take Your Money,” Nick Wing, Aug. 28, 2015
The Huffington Post, “John Oliver Explains The Insanity Of Civil Forfeiture, Introduces New ‘Law & Order’ Spinoff,” Carol Hartsell, Oct. 6, 2014