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What is civil asset forfeiture, and why is it concerning?

Imagine a scenario where you are the owner of a small Texas business that is one day summarily raided by law enforcement officials. They claim that some of your assets are illegally derived proceeds from unlawful activity (the potential list is long; think drug activity, for example).

Here's the catch, though: Notwithstanding that they have depleted your business accounts of cash, their stated rationale for doing so seems flimsy at best. The evidence they offer falls flatly short of the typical criminal law "beyond a reasonable doubt" threshold.

This happens in Texas, with some regularity. And what understandably surprises many people is that (a) authorities don't need to be bothered with the "reasonable doubt" standard, and (b) they can often keep seized cash and other assets even if the individual they confiscated them from is never convicted of a crime.

Welcome to the world - understandably, a controversial universe - of so-called "civil asset forfeiture." It hardly seems surprising that the realm is viewed with alarm (and even disgust) by most Americans. One recent article discussing the implications and unpopularity of civil asset forfeiture cites a poll indicating that more than 80% of people across the country oppose the practice.

Forfeiture proponents argue that seizures are effective as responses that deter hard-to-catch criminals such as drug cartel principals.

Critics - and again, there are many - counter that asset forfeiture far too often targets small business owners, minority populations and other vulnerable groups that are hurt by the practice and often can't fight back.

The advocacy group Institute for Justice states that forfeiture laws in Texas are "terrible," setting forth a low standard of proof and unfairly placing a burden of innocence on targeted individuals.

Seizure of assets allegedly linked with criminal activity is obviously a serious matter. Questions or concerns regarding civil asset forfeiture can be directed to an experienced criminal defense attorney.

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San Marcos, TX 78666

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