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Las Vegas Criminal Defense

Civil Forfeiture is a Problem


Civil forfeiture is something that occurs with regularity across the country, but because so many jurisdictions don’t provide accurate records of their activity, it’s impossible to state the amount of money/property we’re talking about with any specificity.  But let’s be clear: governments pocket billions of dollars this way.

What Exactly is Civil Forfeiture?

When the government—usually police—seize cash and/or property (which they can ultimately sell) that is deemed through a preponderance of the evidence to have been connected to criminal activity, it is called a civil forfeiture. Incredibly, this can occur even if the owner was never convicted, or even arrested! After a seizure of property, it’s up to the owner to prove otherwise.

What it Looks Like in Real Time 

For anyone having a hard time imagining how this actually works, consider the recent case of Marine veteran Stephen Lara.  He was on a cross country trek to move closer to his daughters in California, and had packed up some possessions and a wad of cash totaling nearly $90,000 (he didn’t trust banks to keep his money safe). When Lara was stopped for following another vehicle too closely on a Nevada highway, his nightmare began. Instead of simply issuing a ticket and sending Lara on his way, officers began questioning Lara aggressively asking about the possibility of drugs or dead bodies in his vehicle. They then searched his vehicle, which he said contained a large sum of cash. The cash was quickly confiscated, officers believing it was drug money. Lara was not charged with any crimes. It took months and a lawsuit, but Lara did finally recover his cash, since the state had failed to establish a forfeiture case or a crime.

It’s Much Too Easy, especially in Nevada 

The Institute for Justice gives Nevada a D- for its laws related to civil forfeiture. Consider the ease with which these seizures of property can occur, and the results thereof:

1-       Clear and convincing evidence (not evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, a higher standard) connecting the property to criminal activity must be presented by prosecutors in order for the seizure to hold.

2-       Any third-party owners have to prove that they are innocent of any wrongdoing in order to get their seized property back.

3-       The profit incentive for this activity is incredible, with a whopping 70 percent of assets over $100,000 going right back to law enforcement, and the additional amount slated to schools in the judicial district where the property was seized.

Aggressive Criminal Defense 

At Lobo Law, our tough criminal defense attorneys have no patience for this sort of nonsense, and believe there are issues to be raised relating to due process, several Constitutional Amendments, and even double jeopardy in some cases.  If you are fighting government entities and need a vigorous defense, schedule a confidential consultation in our Las Vegas office today.



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