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Recovering Your Property After A Civil Forfeiture

Feb 29 2016, by Sean Hessler in Criminal Defense, Legal Blog

In Indiana, law enforcement officers can claim another person’s property even if that person has not been convicted of a crime if that person’s property was likely used to a commit a crime. This process is known as civil forfeiture, and it has come under scrutiny in recent weeks due to questionable practices by Indiana law enforcement agencies.

When a person’s property or equipment is seized by law enforcement, the Indiana State constitution states that the resulting civil forfeiture funds should be deposited into the Common School Fund, a fund intended for public schools. But recently, law enforcement officers have been using these funds to pay for law enforcement vehicles, equipment, training, and even salaries. Officers cite a statute that says that police and prosecutors can deduct law enforcement costs from forfeited funds. When these costs run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, many feel that law enforcement is abusing the state’s forfeiture laws and a knowledgeable Indianapolis civil forfeiture attorney may be able to help.

3 Ways Law Enforcement Profits from Forfeiture

  • Cost Deductions—The most common method law enforcement officers use to profit from claiming a potential criminal’s property is to deduct law enforcement costs from the total amount forfeited. This is seen as a type of reimbursement by law enforcement, which may yield hundreds of thousands of dollars in recovered expenses. But some argue such use of forfeited funds is a clear violation of the Indiana Constitution, which says that all—not some—forfeited funds need to be given to the Common School Fund.
  • Profit Splitting—Some agencies split the profits from civil forfeiture by dividing funds between their own agency and the office of the prosecutor with which they are working. This profit splitting can yield zero funds deposited into the state’s public school fund.
  • Over Reporting—When an agency over accounts for investigative costs or overestimates the amount of time their investigations took in order to receive a greater share of forfeiture funds, they’re engaging in a type of fraud and potentially misusing State civil forfeiture laws. Such activity may be a clear violation of the Indiana State Constitution.

Steps to Take If You’re the Victim of Civil Forfeiture

  • Contact an Indianapolis Defense Attorney—If your property or equipment was seized as part of a civil forfeiture, contact an Indianapolis civil forfeiture attorney as soon as possible. Law enforcement may not have taken your property legally, especially in cases where you didn’t commit a crime or where your property wasn’t involved in a criminal act. An experienced attorney may be able to help you recover your property and receive compensation for your pains.
  • Consider Filing a Lawsuit Against Law Enforcement Officers—When a law enforcement officer takes property not involved in a crime or deducts the cost of law enforcement expenses from funds obtained through forfeiture, they might be abusing the law. Filing a lawsuit against the law enforcement officers in question could bring clarity to the legal standing of your property and to the constitutionality of their forfeiture.

How An Indianapolis Civil Forfeiture Attorney Can Help

In Indiana, law enforcement officers are increasingly profiting from civil forfeitures, sometimes to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Are law enforcement officers taking their fair share of the value that comes from seizing a criminal’s property or are they abusing forfeiture laws made to fight organized crime? If you’ve been the victim of a civil forfeiture case, contact one of our experienced Indianapolis civil forfeiture attorney at Hessler Law at (317) 886-8800 today.