What is Civil Asset Forfeiture?

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What is Civil Asset Forfeiture?


The Institute for Justice calls it “policing for profit:” laws allowing police officers to seize money, vehicles, and other assets during an arrest. In about 60% of these cases, even people who are never convicted of a crime rarely see their property ever again.

Getting the property back almost always requires an attorney’s help.

Consider this story:

In the middle of the night in March of 2012, NYPD officers burst into the Bronx home of Gerald Bryan, ransacking his belongings, tearing out light fixtures, punching through walls, and confiscating $4,800 in cash. Bryan, 42, was taken into custody on suspected felony drug distribution, as the police continued their warrantless search. Over a year later, Bryan’s case was dropped. When he went to retrieve his $4,800, he was told it was too late: the money had been deposited into the NYPD’s pension fund. Bryan found himself trapped in the NYPD’s labyrinthine civil forfeiture procedure, a policy based on a 133-year-old law which robs poor New Yorkers of millions of dollars every year; a law that has been ruled unconstitutional twice.” –Gothamist

In some cases, the practice has even applied to real estate.

The NYPD did agree to some new rules for this practice back in February. They aren’t much, but they represent a slight improvement. Civil asset forfeiture continues to be an issue targeted by criminal law reform efforts in New York.

While civil asset forfeiture isn’t really the focus of our law firm, it is a big part of stories we hear every day from defendants who have been blindsided by their interaction with the justice system. This practice puts more strain on people who are already undergoing the scariest time of their life. Usually, you’ll see civil asset forfeiture during drug cases, which are always high-stakes cases. By the time cops are seizing your property they may well be accusing you of major drug trafficking.

Being charged with any crime is expensive, and we’re not really talking about legal fees, since we take steps to keep those reasonable. We’re talking about wage loss, bail, and all the hidden costs of the stress and emotional trauma.

If you’re facing criminal charges we understand all the challenges you’re dealing with. That’s why we offer free consultations and handle your case with compassion and care. During your free consultation we welcome you to tell us about all aspects of your case, including whether you’ve lost money or property to overzealous arresting officers. And if they swept into your house without a warrant (as is so often the case) we definitely want to do that, as highlighting this illegal search could be vital to helping you win your case.

If you’ve been charged with a crime, get the help you need by calling us.

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