Sunday, August 30, 2015

Civil asset forfeiture - Police Take Your Money And Stuff Without Conviction or Charges

A new poll shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans aren't familiar with civil asset forfeiture, a controversial law enforcement practice that allows officers to seize a person's property -- including cash, cars, jewelry and houses -- without obtaining a conviction or even charging the owner with a crime.

While civil asset forfeiture laws vary by state, most states and the federal government allow police to seize property immediately if they have probable cause to suspect it's tied to something illegal. 
The standard of proof officers must then establish to permanently seize that property depends on the state. Some states require only probable cause or a "preponderance of the evidence" -- in other words, authorities must establish that, more likely than not, the property is related to criminal activity. Both of these standards are far less stringent than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” benchmark required for criminal convictions.
In most states, property owners facing civil asset forfeiture are also responsible for proving that their property is not, in fact, connected to illegal activity. If they can't, they lose the property for good.
This effectively inverts the American legal principle that suspects are innocent until proven guilty, critics say.

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