In our last post, we mentioned that there is currently legislation in the House of Representatives which would change the asset forfeiture process in Texas by requiring law enforcement to have a conviction before property can be forfeited. In other words, the bill would effectively repeal civil asset forfeiture and replace it with criminal asset forfeiture. This would bring the asset forfeiture in line with the criminal system’s assumption that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty.
As it currently stands, the state is required to show that seized property is related to a crime by a preponderance of the evidence. This standard is significantly lower than the beyond a reasonable doubt standard. The property owner has the burden of demonstrating that the property was not involved in a crime.
There is no doubt that having an experienced advocate throughout the asset forfeiture process can be helpful, both with navigating the court system and working with the evidentiary issues that come up in the process. As it stands now, law enforcement agencies retain as much as 90 percent of the proceeds of civil asset forfeiture, so the state certainly has an interest in winning these cases. Unfortunately, the opportunity for abuse is significant.
Those who have been subjected to a criminal investigation and have had property seized on the suspicion that it was involved in criminal activity can and should seek the guidance and advocacy of an experienced attorney. Doing so ensures that their rights will be zealously advocated throughout the process, regardless of the ultimate outcome.