Maryland residents who have had their property seized by law enforcement agencies may be interested to learn that, according to a study, civil asset forfeiture has little impact on preventing criminal activity. Civil asset forfeiture is the practice that allows law enforcement agencies to seize property that may have been used to commit a crime. Common property to be seized includes money, vehicles and even homes.
The study examined approximately 10 years’ worth of data from the Justice Department’s equitable sharing program, which is responsible for sharing the forfeiture revenues across several state and federal law enforcement agencies. The study ultimately found that the seizing of assets did not result in decreased drug use or help crimes get solved.
On the other hand, the study did find that civil asset forfeiture increased when there were times of economic stress on the local economies. For example, when there was a 1 percent increase in unemployment in the local economy, there was a statistically significant 9 percent point increase in the number of property seized. In fact, although law enforcement agencies have certainly used civil asset forfeiture laws to seize large amounts of drugs, they have used the laws just as often to seize cash and other property from regular, everyday people.
When a person is accused of being involved in a drug crime, they are also at risk of potentially having essential property seized, such as his or her money, vehicle or even home. If a person is at risk for having his or her property seized, a criminal defense attorney may create a strong defense by arguing that the person or the property was not involved in criminal activity or arguing that the person was unaware his or her property was being used to aid in some sort of crime.