How the Government can Legally Steal your Property
Did you know that the State of Nevada can legally take your property (i.e., cash, cars, houses) without even charging you with a crime? The process is called “civil forfeiture” and many other States are now either reconsidering their laws on the issue, like New York (http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/08/how-police-use-a-legal-gray-area-to-rob-suspects-of-their-belongings/495740/), or completely abolishing it, like New Mexico recently did (http://reason.com/blog/2016/08/31/new-mexico-passed-a-law-ending-civil-for).
The idea of seizing money or goods during an arrest originally became popular in the 1970s to take money and yachts out of the hands of drug dealers, even if they ended up beating the case. The police were able to make a case against the money — suspects would have to prove exactly how they came to possess such amounts. Now, however, the police use the practice primarily to take money and property from the pockets of those who can least afford to get it back. Adding insult to injury, because civil forfeiture is considered “civil” and not “criminal,” you are not entitled to a free, appointed attorney if you can’t afford to hire one. Therefore, the State of Nevada can try to take your property away, without charging you with a crime and without providing you with an attorney.
Under a civil forfeiture action, all the State of Nevada has to do is prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that any piece of property you have is directly or indirectly derived from, or was used in, a criminal act or attempted criminal act. The State also gets to have its cake and eat it too if you are actually charged with a crime. If you are found not guilty of the crime by a jury of your peers, the State can still try to take your property by way of civil forfeiture. Yet, if a jury finds you guilty of the crime, the judgment of conviction is “conclusive evidence of all facts necessary” to prove civil forfeiture. In effect, it’s “heads I win, tails you lose,” for the State if they charge you with a crime and also seek civil forfeiture.
If you have been served with a civil forfeiture Complaint by the State of Nevada, please call us immediately to discuss your options. Whether it’s a civil forfeiture action, a criminal case, or a personal injury matter, at Nobles & Yanez we are always here ready to fight for your rights.