When Texas residents are accused of a crime, the authorities may seize assets that are suspected to be connected to a crime. While many law enforcement groups have argued that seizing assets, known as civil asset forfeiture, is a crucial tool for law enforcement to stop drug trafficking, a study has found that it actually has little impact on the prevention of crimes.
Civil asset forfeiture allows law enforcement agencies to seize property that may have been involved in criminal activity. Property that can be seized includes vehicles, houses and cash. The proceeds of the property are often split between the prosecutor offices and the police department. However, it is important to note that the owner of the property does not have to actually be charged with a crime in order for law enforcement to seize the property.
The study reportedly found that civil asset forfeiture actually increased during times of financial stress. For example, the study reported that when there was a 1% increase in unemployment, civil asset forfeiture increased by 9%. Ultimately, the study indicates that law enforcement uses civil forfeiture to increase revenue. When the impacts of civil asset forfeiture were actually analyzed, the results of the study showed that there were insignificant or overstated impacts on drug crimes and other criminal activity.
If a person's property is seized by law enforcement agents, there are some defenses that may be utilized regardless of whether the individual is facing criminal charges. For example, a criminal law attorney may argue that the owner of the assets that were seized wasn't involved in any criminal activity or aware of his or her property being involved in criminal activity. Alternatively, a lawyer may argue that the property was illegally seized if the law enforcement agents did not have a warrant.