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Civil Asset Forfeiture Part 3: Colorado’s Reforms

The Colorado legislature has recently enacted changes to the way it handles civil forfeiture cases, and is getting national attention for doing so. Senate Bill 17-1313, which has been signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper, requires state and local law enforcement agencies authorized to effect civil forfeitures to make biannual reports specifying the information they have regarding their forfeiture cases, the amount of proceeds received from such cases, a categorization of the expenditure of the proceeds, and the retained balance of the forfeiture proceeds. In addition, the bill creates a searchable database where you can learn about the circumstances of each forfeiture, whether the local law enforcement was working with the feds, and what they plan on doing with the proceeds. These changes certainly will illuminate just how dependent Colorado law enforcement is on proceeds from civil forfeiture.
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Civil Asset Forfeiture Part 2: Time is of the Essence

Fighting a forfeiture action is a beat-the-clock situation. Many people who would be able to recover thousands of dollars or more in forfeited cash simply do not file their objections in time and then are precluded by law from objecting. The federal law authorizing civil asset forfeiture drastically limits the time allowed to object to forfeitures. See 18 U.S.C. 983(a)(2). It allows agencies like the DEA to give you only 35 days to file a claim so that a judge can determine whether you are entitled to the money or property seized. The alternative method is to make a request with the agency itself to return the property. In that case, the agency may deny your claim and keep your money if you fail to file a petition with them in 30 days. As you can imagine, asking the agency to voluntarily give the property back is an uphill battle.

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Civil Asset Forfeiture Part 1: The Historical Context

Civil forfeiture is one of the most shocking and devastating tools at the disposal of state and federal prosecutors. Essentially, civil forfeiture laws allow law enforcement agencies to take property from a citizen that the officer believes to be contraband of a crime, even if no charges are ever filed against the person. In fact, property can be seized even if it is owned by a completely innocent person. Often times, officers seize large quantities of cash without any other indication that the money has been used in illegal activities. Shockingly, if you are driving on the highway and an officer sees that you have a bag full of cash, he can take it on the spot without charging you with a crime.

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Disclaimer: The information in this blog is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this blog should be construed as legal advice from The Eichner Law Firm or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this blog should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this blog without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.