Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney in Cincinnati, Ohio
In various states, including Ohio, civil asset forfeiture has allowed law enforcement to seize property believed to be connected to criminal conduct. Remarkably, such seizures can occur even if the property owner isn’t directly implicated or convicted
If you believe your rights have been violated and your property has been illegally taken by law enforcement in Cincinnati, OH, the attorneys at Luftman, Heck & Associates may be able to assist you. Let us explain your rights, the process for getting your property or money back, and how to proceed.
Call (513) 338-1890for a free and confidential consultation.
Civil Asset Forfeiture in Cincinnati, Ohio
A lot of focus is put on illegal searches by the police in criminal investigations. However, Ohio’s civil asset forfeiture procedures have attracted widespread criticism. As a result, Ohio enacted a new law that extensively amended the previous civil asset forfeiture practices. Many actions from the old practice are now deemed unlawful unless the property’s owner is found guilty of a crime.
If your property is taken by law enforcement, contact a lawyer right away about your rights and options.
Civil Asset Forfeiture
Under Ohio Revised Code 2981.05, civil asset forfeiture allows the government to claim your property by demonstrating a preponderance of evidence because it facilitated a crime. Alternatively, criminal asset forfeiture necessitates a court conviction, after which assets linked to the crime can be confiscated.
Why Does Ohio Seize Assets
Ohio law gives the state the authority to confiscate certain types of property tied to criminal activity for the purpose of
- Acting as a financial deterrent and corrective measure to prevent criminal activities.
- Offer a counterbalance to the economic impact of criminal actions.
- Ensure items related to criminal behavior, such as firearms, electronic devices, money, etc., are forfeited in a manner that aligns with the severity of the crime.
- To give precedence to compensating victims of crimes.
While asset forfeiture is touted as a financial deterrent, there’s limited evidence to support the claim that civil forfeiture effectively deters crime. There is also broad discretion granted in civil forfeiture cases, meaning assets can be seized even when they are disproportionate to the alleged crime. This can lead to significant economic hardships for minor infractions.
The notion of compensating crime victims is commendable, but there’s no consistent way to ensure that the proceeds from civil forfeiture reach victims. In many cases, most of the seized assets are kept by law enforcement agencies and absorbed into their budgets.
What Property Can Be Seized?
In Ohio, as in other states, the law allows for the seizure of certain property under specific circumstances. Understanding these provisions is crucial for those facing charges or believing their property has been wrongly taken.
- Evidence of a Crime: Law enforcement can seize any property believed to be evidence of a crime. This could include drugs, weapons, stolen property, or any item that might provide proof of a criminal act.
- Contraband: This refers to items illegal to possess. For instance, illicit narcotics, certain weapons, or illicitly obtained goods can be seized.
- Instrumentalities of Crime: If property is used to commit a crime or is directly involved in committing a crime, it can be seized. This could include a car used in a drive-by shooting or equipment used to manufacture drugs.
- Proceeds from Crime: If law enforcement believes property (like money, real estate, or other assets) was obtained via criminal activity, it can be seized.
- DUI/OVI Seizures: In Ohio, if a person is arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Operating a Vehicle Impaired (OVI) multiple times within a certain period, the state can seize and forfeit the vehicle involved.
- Property Subject to a Lien: If a person owes money and fails to pay as per the terms of a lien, the property to which the lien is attached can be seized. This can apply to real estate, vehicles, and other personal property.
Ohio’s Reformed Civil Asset Forfeiture Law
Previously, Ohio law enforcement could seize properties suspected of criminal ties without requiring the owner’s conviction. The owner then bore the burden to prove the property did not stem from illegal activity. This was contrary to the usual presumption of innocence. As a result, this system allowed almost all proceeds from asset forfeitures to benefit the seizing agencies directly.
But under Ohio House Bill 347, a criminal conviction is now required for forfeiture of properties worth under $25,000. The state must now substantiate the owner’s knowledge or reasonable suspicion about the property’s criminal ties. Furthermore, the forfeiture amount should proportionally relate to the crime in question.
For properties exceeding $25,000, the state can still proceed with the seizure without a conviction. However, the revised law empowers property owners with the option for a swift post-seizure hearing to retrieve erroneously confiscated assets. Such provisions offer homeowners additional security when their primary residence is in question.
Exceptions to the conviction prerequisite exist when the individual can’t be located, escapes jurisdiction, or passes away. The law also prevents Ohio from transferring or referring properties under $100,000 in value to federal entities, barring specific circumstances.
What to Do If Your Property is Seized?
In Ohio, if law enforcement seizes your money, you’ve got 30 days to file a claim and request a hearing. The chance of getting it back varies based on the seizure circumstances. Contraband typically won’t be returned, and cash taken as evidence requires a prosecutor’s release.
Cash must be sent to the Seizure Forfeiture Unit (SFU) within 14 days. You should receive a written notice detailing the seizure within 10 days. If you were given a voucher during a warranted search, it can be used to retrieve your money from the police. If no receipt was provided, you may need to contact the police department or have an attorney request the related paperwork.
Can a Lawyer Get Your Seized Property Back?
Hiring an attorney increases your chances of retrieving property if police wrongfully seize it. At Luftman, Heck & Associates, our attorneys are well-versed in Ohio’s cash seizure procedures and can effectively:
- Challenge the search, seizure, and related traffic stops.
- Identify unlawful interrogations or invalid evidence.
- Question the legitimacy of search warrants.
- Present documentation that confirms your money’s legitimate origin (e.g., legal business transactions or bank withdrawals).
- Assert that the seizure was disproportional to the crime, potentially violating the Eighth Amendment.
Mistaken identity or other wrongful seizures can also be addressed with the proper evidence. Additionally, it may be helpful to scrutinize the notice given and the opportunity to contest the seizure. Remember, the government must prove the seized assets were tied to criminal activity. If they fail, the property must be returned to you.
Ohio Civil Asset Forfeiture FAQs
What is Asset Forfeiture?
Asset forfeiture is a legal process allowing law enforcement to seize assets believed to be connected to criminal activity.
Can Property be Seized Without a Conviction in Ohio?
Assets worth more than $25,000 can be seized without a conviction, but reforms have made it harder to forfeit property without proving a connection to criminal activity.
Is There a Time Limit to Challenge Asset Forfeiture in Ohio?
Yes. In Ohio, you typically have 30 days to file a claim and request a hearing to regain control of the seized assets.
What Happens to Assets After They’re Seized?
Previously, a significant portion could be used to fund law enforcement agencies. But reforms ensure greater transparency and restrictions on how these funds are used.
Call our Cincinnati Asset Forfeiture Attorneys
Despite recent improvements, civil forfeiture continues to affect people wrongfully and unnecessarily in Cincinnati. You’ll likely be angry and confused if your property is illegally taken. But you have options.
At Luftman, Heck & Associates, we have considerable experience dealing with asset forfeiture and a track record for getting people’s property back. Contact us for a free consultation. Call (513) 338-1890 or contact us online to get started.