Civil Asset Forfeiture
As a practice implemented by many states, including Ohio, civil asset forfeiture allows law enforcement to confiscate property that is allegedly tied to some type of criminal activity. Quite often, this confiscation can take place even when the owner of the property is not suspected of committing a crime. The actual property itself is the object of the lawsuit filed by the state, not the owner of the property.
However, within the past year, the practice of asset forfeiture on a civil basis has come under increased criticism in the state of Ohio. Due to this scrutiny, Ohio lawmakers recently passed a law signed by the governor that significantly overhauls the past practice of civil asset forfeiture in the state. The new law essentially makes many aspects of the previous practice illegal, unless the owner of the property has been convicted of a crime.
If you are currently facing the forfeiture of your civil assets in Ohio, it is vital that you obtain experienced legal counsel in order to effectively defend your rights. Cincinnati criminal defense attorney Brad Groene of Luftman, Heck & Associates has many years of experience standing up for the rights of his clients. Utilizing his skill and experience in civil law cases, he is prepared to fight on your behalf to help you recover your assets.
Previous Civil Asset Forfeiture Law
Civil forfeiture is used by law enforcement officials to take possession of property they suspect of having a connection to a crime. Officers of the state may either suspect that the property was obtained through criminal activity or that it was involved in the commission of criminal activity.
Ohio’s previous civil asset forfeiture law did not require an owner of property in the state to be convicted of a crime before the state could seize their possessions, including any car, cash, or home they may own.
Prosecutors only needed to prove that the property fell under the category of forfeitable. In other words, a property owner had to prove their property was not involved in any wrongdoing. The burden of proof was on the property owner, not the state. No presumption of innocence was involved – something that is commonly recognized in U.S. law. In addition, the previous law in Ohio allowed the vast majority of forfeiture revenues, even 90 to 100 percent of these revenues, to go directly back to law enforcement agencies that performed the seizure operations.
Reformed Civil Asset Forfeiture Law
The passage of Ohio House Bill 347 and its eventual signing by the governor helped revamp a faulty civil asset forfeiture system in the state. The new law requires that any property forfeiture with a value below $25,000 require a criminal conviction of the property owner. As well, the state will have to clearly and convincingly prove through evidence that the property owner knew or had reasonable cause to believe that the property resulted from or enabled criminal activity. In addition, the state must demonstrate that forfeiting such a property is fairly comparable to the underlying crime.
Under the new civil asset forfeiture law, property valued at more than $25,000 is still subject to seizure by the state without owners of these properties being convicted of a crime. The new civil asset forfeiture law also enables property owners the right to ask for a quickly arranged post-seizure hearing which can give them an opportunity to quickly recover wrongfully seized property or cash. This hearing may also be requested if the targeted property is a person’s home, giving home and property owners added protection in situations where state officials are targeting real property.
Certain exceptions to the criminal conviction requirement include scenarios such as when the accused cannot be found, flees the court jurisdiction, or dies. Forfeiture can also take place without a criminal conviction involved if the property is not claimed. An additional feature of the law excludes the state of Ohio from directly or indirectly transferring or referring any property valued at less than $100,000 to federal authorities, except for the purposes of federal criminal forfeiture proceedings.
Contact an Experienced Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney
Have some of your civil assets been seized by the state of Ohio? Do you feel that your rights have been violated? If so, you need experienced legal advocates to fight for the recovery of your property. Luftman, Heck & Associates understand the frustration you may be experiencing due to the action of the state in seizing your property. Attorney Brad Groene, along with our team, is ready to formulate an aggressive legal strategy to pursue the repossession of your assets from the state.
Call us today at (513) 338-1890 to start the process and schedule a free case evaluation.