Law enforcement seizure is a controversial tool used by law enforcement to take property related to criminal activity. Texas forfeiture laws offer limited protections to property owners and incentive law enforcement to police for profit. Below are more details about what property law enforcement officers can seize in Sugar Land and what happens to your property after it is taken.
What Property Can Law Enforcement Seize in Sugar Land?
In Texas, law enforcement can seize any type of property if they believe that it is related to certain criminal activity. It is related to criminal activity if it was used in the commission of a crime, intended to be used in a crime, or is the proceeds of a crime. No criminal charges or convictions are required.
Examples of property that law enforcement can seize in Sugar Land, Texas include:
- Bank accounts, and
Law enforcement can even seize the future proceeds of crime that have not yet been realized.
What Happens to My Property When It is Seized in Sugar Land?
When law enforcement seizes your property, you do not immediately lose ownership. Instead, the police will take your property into their possession while they begin a court process called a forfeiture lawsuit.
To permanently take ownership of the property, the state must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that it is related to criminal activity. You have the opportunity to defend against this lawsuit. You can argue that your property is not linked to a crime or that you did not know or should not have known that the property was contraband.
The outcome of the forfeiture case will determine whether the property is returned to you or whether you forfeit (lose ownership rights of) the property.
- If you win the lawsuit, your property will be returned to you.
- If the state dismisses the lawsuit, your property will be returned to you.
- If you lose the case, the property will be forfeited to the state.
- If you don’t respond to the state’s lawsuit, the court will enter a default judgment, and you forfeit the property.
- If you and the state enter into a settlement agreement, all or part of the property could be returned to you.
In some circumstances, you can ask for the property to be returned to you temporarily while the forfeiture case is ongoing. To get your property, you will need to post a bond by paying the court an amount equal to the value of the seized property. Additionally, you will need to promise the court that you will return the property to the state on the day of the forfeiture trial and abide by the court’s decision. You cannot get temporary possession of your property if it is money or evidence in a pending criminal trial.
What Happens to My Property When it is Forfeited in Sugar Land?
When your property is forfeited, you permanently lose ownership and all rights to the property. In Texas, the majority of the forfeited property goes to local law enforcement agencies. They typically retain up to seventy percent of the proceeds for official law enforcement purposes.
Usually, the property is seized by local or state police, but sometimes it is taken through a joint investigation with federal law enforcement (ex. FBI, DEA, or IRS). If the property was seized through a joint investigation, local officials can keep up to eighty percent of the forfeiture proceeds through an equitable sharing program.
After a series of abuses, Texas passed legislation in 2011 that placed slight restrictions on how law enforcement agencies can spend forfeiture proceeds. Before this change, proceeds were used to pay for things like margarita machines, trips to Hawaii, and bonus salaries. Now, law enforcement agencies must use the money to pay for official purposes, like computers, supplies, vehicles, training, travel, and facility costs. The proceeds are used as a regular source of income to fill gaps in the budget. For example, in 2017, Harris County forfeiture funds equaled five percent of the local law enforcement agency’s total budget.
Your Sugar Land Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one is facing a civil asset forfeiture lawsuit, you should reach out to an experienced Sugar Land criminal defense attorney. Adam Capetillo is a Fort Bend County native who will provide a skilled and aggressive defense. Call Capetillo Law Firm today for a free consultation.