Civil forfeiture is a process that allows law enforcement officers or agencies to confiscate private property allegedly related to a crime, even if the property owner is not actually charged with a criminal case. The government is not required to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt as it must in other criminal cases. The state instead is only required to prove probable cause by a preponderance of the evidence. This is a far lower standard which only requires the government to prove that its case is more likely to be true than not true.
In 2016, the Institute for Justice released its second version of "Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture," in which it provided a map of the United States that included a scorecard for every state. Louisiana was one of 35 states with a grade of D+ or worse. According to the Institute, Louisiana generated $99,315,778 in total forfeiture proceeds between 2000 and 2014.
Contact The Norris Law Group at (318) 771-7000 to schedule a confidential consultation regarding asset forfeiture defense.
In a civil asset forfeiture, your property is the defendant. An action in rem (also known as an in rem proceeding) is a proceeding against the actual thing as opposed to personal actions, which are in personam.
An action in rem can be brought by the district attorney in addition to, or in lieu of, civil in personam forfeiture procedures. The owner of or an interest holder in the property are the only parties allowed to file answers asserting claims against the property in an action in rem. Owners or interest holders become claimants.
An answer must be signed by the owner or interest holder under penalty of perjury and must contain all of the following:
In Louisiana, the district attorney must authorize a public sale or a public auction sale conducted by a licensed auctioneer. This sale does not require an appraisal of forfeited property. The property cannot be sold if it is required by law to be destroyed or harmful to the public. If the property seized is a motor vehicle, the seizing agency can retain use of the motor vehicle for use in the scope of undercover surveillance and investigation of violations of the Louisiana Controlled Dangerous Substances Law.
The proceeds of any sale and any monies forfeited or obtained, by judgment or settlement, must be deposited in the Special Asset Forfeiture Fund. The fund is subject to public audit, and money in the fund must be distributed for satisfaction of any bona fide security interest or lien, and for payment of all expenses of the forfeiture and sale proceedings. The remaining funds are allocated as follows: 60% to the law enforcement agency or agencies making the seizure, 20% to the criminal court fund, and 20% to any district attorney's office that employs the attorneys who handle the forfeiture action for the state.
Law enforcement agencies end up keeping a significant portion of whatever currency or property they seize through civil asset forfeiture.
The Norris Law Group understands the complexity of civil asset forfeiture cases and can work to help you achieve the most favorable possible outcome in your case. You will need a knowledgeable lawyer to help protect and preserve your right to retain your property. Cases are frequently complicated by the nature of the alleged crime giving rise to the forfeiture. Family violence cases, for example, can result in the victim of domestic violence having their property seized due to it being connected to their crime scene.
If your property was recently seized under state civil asset forfeiture laws in Shreveport, Bossier City, or a community nearby, you will need to work with an attorney who can prove that the forfeiture was not justified. The Norris Law Group will work tirelessly to help you recover the property that was wrongly taken from you. We can review your case during a confidential consultation, as soon as you call (318) 771-7000 or contact us online.