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Q/A: Texas Civil Asset Forfeiture: What is It, and Why Does It Matter?

Question/Comment:

Shirley recently asked us on Facebook, "Why is it right to keep a person's car for drugs .I don't think it's right.. why they put it up for auction.should give it back to the family. All wrong.."

The answer lies in understanding Texas' Civil Asset Forfeiture laws. We have addressed the high points below.

Civil Asset Forfeiture in Texas

Civil asset forfeiture is the police practice of seizing personal property, usually money or a vehicle, that is believed to be tied to a crime. Texas has some of the country’s strictest forfeiture laws, and getting one’s property returned can end in a battle. If your vehicle or other property has been appropriated by the police, you need an experienced Central Texas criminal defense attorney.

For-Profit Arrests

Nearly every state has civil forfeiture laws, but they differ widely in terms of procedure and financial incentive for the law enforcement agency. In fact, the Institute for Justice (IJ) gives the State of Texas a D+ in terms of incentivizing law enforcement personnel to police for profit. By way of comparison, Texas law allows law enforcement agencies to retain 70 percent of the value of the forfeited property they obtain, while laws in neighboring New Mexico allow law enforcement agencies to retain 0 percent – after recently passing reforms. Many believe that allowing law enforcement agencies to retain much of the value of forfeited property incentivizes police to seize property during arrests – and even to make more arrests.

Texas Asset Forfeiture

In Texas, you do not even have to be convicted of the crime to have your car or other property forfeited. Texas has been unsuccessful in effecting asset-forfeiture reform, and resistance from law enforcement leaders seems to be the cause. In 2015, there were 13 reform bills for civil forfeiture introduced, but none were passed.

The Preponderance of the Evidence

Further, evidence requirements related to asset forfeiture in Texas are low – requiring only a “preponderance of the evidence” that the seized property is linked to a crime. A preponderance of the evidence refers to the standard of proof that the state government must attain to win the forfeiture case. A preponderance of the evidence means that it is more likely than not that the property is connected to an alleged crime. In other words, the bar is very low, and the government need only show that there is slightly more than a 50-50 chance that the property was connected to the crime.

The Seizure of Property

In Texas, your car or other property can be seized and forfeited without clear proof that it is linked to a criminal act. In other words, much of the burden of proof (of your innocence) rests with you. If you are the victim of a civil asset of forfeiture, you need experienced legal counsel to help protect your rights.

If Your Car or Cash Has Been Seized in a Civil Asset Forfeiture, Consult with a Central Texas Criminal Defense Attorney Today

The State of Texas takes a harsh stance when it comes to civil asset forfeitures. If you have been victimized by this legal process, attorney Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Central Texas has the experience, commitment, and skill to help. Your right to your property matters, so please contact or call us at 254-501-4040 today.
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