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Texas police departments take in millions through alleged crimes

How is it possible for the police to just strip you of your car, cash, or other hard-earned possessions?

Easy. Civil asset forfeiture is a legal process used by police in numerous areas -- including Texas -- that allows authorities to take assets away from anyone they believe is involved in criminal activity. Actually proving that someone is involved in a crime isn't necessary.

While police officials say that they need the ability to strip drug dealers and other high-powered criminals of their assets in order to effectively fight crime and shut down the drug trade, the system is often abused. Police departments in most areas are permitted to profit from the seized assets. Cash can be funneled right into the department. Assets like cars and jewelry can be sold at auction in order to convert them to cash.

This system gives police all the motivation needed to target anybody for asset forfeiture -- even if they aren't really guilty of a crime. Once the assets are taken, the owner has very little recourse.

For example, Houston police caught a young man driving his mother's truck with 13.5 grams of marijuana in his possession. The mother had loaned her son her only vehicle so that he could take his pregnant girlfriend to the doctor. Police confiscated the vehicle and prosecutors filed suit against it -- not the mother -- for involvement in the drug trade.

While the woman eventually got her truck back (although she had to pay quite a bit of money to do it), most people aren't that lucky. Prosecutors aren't required to prove that assets were actually used in a crime to win a civil forfeiture case. It's up to the individual to prove that their assets weren't part of a criminal enterprise -- and proving a negative is often an uphill battle.

Virtually anyone can be a victim of civil forfeiture because every traffic stop can become a pretext for legal robbery. Texas police departments made $50 million in 2017 alone through asset forfeitures that skirt due process. While reforms have curtailed some abuses, pushback from law enforcement has ground other measures to a halt.

This is just one of the ways that ordinary citizens are at a disadvantage when dealing with the police. If you're the subject of a police investigation, make sure that you have an experienced criminal defense attorney protecting your rights.

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San Marcos, TX 78666

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