Property Seizure and Criminal Forfeiture Laws in Columbus, Ohio
Although changes to Ohio statutes have made it more difficult to target those who are vulnerable, people are still victimized by civil and criminal asset forfeiture. Our Columbus criminal defense lawyers at Luftman, Heck & Associates have spent years helping people reclaim their property. Our skilled legal team will work tirelessly to prove that your possessions are not connected to criminal activity.
In most states, law enforcement officers are allowed to seize property if they suspect that it is connected to a crime. In most cases, the property owner does not even need to be charged with a crime. For decades, this is how asset forfeiture was handled in Ohio. However, Governor John Kasich recently signed a bill into law that all but eliminates the chaos caused by this practice.
To find out how you can have your interests represented in court, call (614) 500-3836 today.
New Forfeiture Requirements
In the past, police agencies in Ohio could seize any funds or property that they believed were connected to a crime, even if there were no charges or convictions involved. For years, police have had the incentive to steal from those who could not fight back. When an item is seized as part of asset forfeiture, it is sold at auction if the owner does not take legal action within 30 days. Once the item has been liquidated, the profits go directly into the coffers of local law enforcement agencies. In order to take full advantage of this practice, police have been inclined to target those who do not have the means to fight back.
On January 4, 2017, a bill was signed into law that dramatically affected asset forfeiture. Now, if police wish to take property valued at over $15,000, they must first reach a conviction in criminal court. This will protect the vast majority of asset forfeiture victims. Another change brought about by this legislation involves closing the “equitable sharing” loophole. Police are no longer able to collect 80 percent of forfeiture profits that come from cooperating with the federal government.
Opposition from Law Enforcement Groups
Local, state, and federal police programs have insisted that asset forfeiture plays a vital role in cutting criminals off from their resources. While seizing property can aid in fighting crime, it is more often used to pad police budgets. Before the recent change in the law, those who were targeted by this practice had no presumption of innocence. Instead, they were forced to go to court and prove that their possessions were not involved in any past or current crimes. Constitutional rights were also blatantly violated. When a person’s possessions were taken, they were not assigned legal representation.
Need Help Retrieving Property after an Arrest? Call the Columbus Criminal Defense Lawyers at LHA
Although the law has changed, some police agencies continue to illegally seize assets. Officers continue to take property without filing criminal charges. If you have been victimized by this illegal activity, you should acquire legal representation as quickly as possible. If your stolen property is worth less than $15,000, you can get it immediately returned by petitioning the court. If on the other hand, you have lost a more valuable item, such as a car or house, it may be necessary to take additional legal action. You should hire a lawyer, file a petition within a certain time frame, and make your case in court. An experienced civil asset forfeiture attorney can help you devise a legal strategy to prove that your items were not used in illicit activities.
Having your property ripped away without so much as an explanation can be devastating. If your house was seized, you may suddenly be homeless. Losing a car or essential work equipment can also cause serious complications. Our Columbus criminal defense attorneys at Luftman, Heck & Associates know that people are often forced to forfeit their assets without cause. We will evaluate every aspect of your case to create a compelling legal strategy. We will not rest until you take back what is yours.
If you would like a free legal consultation, or if you have any questions, call our defense lawyers at LHA today at (614) 500-3836.