Massachusetts civil asset forfeiture

On Behalf of | Oct 29, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

When you are a suspect in a crime, the police and prosecutors will look for any shred of evidence connected to the crime and use it in court. In Massachusetts, law enforcement officers have the right to confiscate your assets and even do so indefinitely. You may want to take a look at civil asset forfeiture laws in the state.

Civil asset forfeiture

There are two types of forfeiture in Massachusetts. The first, which is criminal forfeiture, involves seizing assets after the court convicts a person of a crime and is part of the sentencing process. For instance, if you were involved in crimes such as money laundering, fraud, robbery, immigration law offenses, or drug offenses, the police will seize everything you unlawfully obtained, including things that you bought with money you made from the crime.

There are occasions where law enforcement officers won’t wait for the court to convict to confiscate your property. As long as they believe that what you own facilitated the crime or you bought the property with illegal money, they have the right to take it. This is called civil forfeiture.

Massachusetts law on civil forfeiture is very tough on state residents. For one, the police and prosecutors are given a great incentive to indefinitely take your property even without you being convicted. In addition, the state doesn’t provide a deadline to initiate forfeiture proceedings. This means that when the police confiscate your car, it can take five years before you get it back through a lawsuit or claim.

What happens to confiscated assets?

Asset forfeiture is a gold mine for law enforcement officers. The proceeds are usually split 50/50 between the state or local police department and the district attorney’s office.

Civil forfeiture was started as an effort to combat drugs and gang activities in the state. The idea was that if law enforcement could weaken gangs and drug dealers financially, they would find it hard to continue engaging in illegal activities. However, these harsh laws haven’t been changed yet, making life hard for the innocent people who have their assets seized even if their charges get dropped.

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