Two Challenges Associated With Civil Forfeiture Lawsuits

Civil asset forfeiture laws were first developed to stop large-scale criminal organizations from profiting them their crimes. However, law enforcement agencies are abusing these laws to take money and property from people who haven't been charged with or convicted of any crimes. While it is possible to sue the responsible party to get your property back, here are two challenges you'll need to overcome to achieve that goal.

You Must File the Complaint by a Deadline

When pursuing the government for any type of wrongdoing, the first issue many people run into is they are typically required to file complaints with the agency in question before they're allowed to file lawsuits.

This wouldn't be a problem except the agencies often only give complainants a short window of time to file the complaint. If the person misses that window, they're barred from bringing any legal action against the agency, even when there's sufficient evidence proving the agency is liable for damages. Additionally, complainants must wait for a response from the agencies, which can sometimes take months, before they can proceed with their cases.

For instance, if a federal agent confiscated your money, you must file a complaint with the agency the person works for within 2 years, and the agency has 6 months to respond. Afterwards, you must file a lawsuit against the agency within six months after it responds or you'll lose the right to do so forever.

The government enacts this requirement because they want to settle issues in-house to minimize its legal costs, which is understandable. Unfortunately for plaintiffs, this means they must go weeks or months without their confiscated assets and there's no guarantee the agency will release the property. To protect your rights, however, it's important to file the complaint as soon as the incident occurs.

You Must Prove Your Innocence

The second issue you'll face when attempting to get your money or property back from the government is proving you're innocent of any crime you're being charged with or that the asset wasn't used as part of any criminal activity. The way the law is written in many states, a person doesn't have to be accused or charged with a crime to have their assets taken. The police only have to suspect the money or property was used for criminal activity.

Unfortunately, this means you'll need to furnish proof you came by the money legally or no illegal activity took place in your home or vehicle. For instance, if police took $20,000 from you that you won at a casino, you would have to produce a receipt from the casino showing the cash payout to prove you received the money legally.

Fighting against civil forfeiture can be challenging. It's best to consult with an attorney who can help you litigate the case and get your assets back.