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Can Georgia law enforcement take property connected to crimes?

In Georgia, your property can be legally taken away by law enforcement if they even suspect that you acquired the property from criminal activity. The law calls this civil asset forfeiture. BUT, to keep the property, the state must prove that it’s connected to criminality.

How the law works

Law enforcement and its advocates argue civil forfeiture is an invaluable asset for stopping and fighting criminal activity. Proponents for CRIMINAL LAW – theft and property crimes in Georgia counter that the process essentially violates civil liberties and has the potential to promote profit motives.

How civil forfeiture works

In 2012, a limo driver from New York traveled to Florida to look at places to live. She took $11,500 in cash with her. The woman was allegedly stopped for speeding in Camden County.

Finding the money, the officer questioned why she had such a large sum of cash. They asked if she was a drug dealer. She was not. Law enforcement confiscated the money anyway but did not charge her with any crime.

Later, law enforcement would argue probable cause as the section of highway she was on was a known drug corridor. They’d also attest a drug dog found the money.

The woman got her money back but the aggravation she suffered is unimaginable. She sued the city and received an unreported settlement.

The practice needs reforming

Seized money and other assets are allegedly applied to police department funding. This raises the question of law enforcement’s quickness to seize is not so much to aid in curtailing criminality but a financial incentive.

Georgia legislature has reform initiatives requiring law enforcement to inject more transparency into seizing assets and how those assets get used. Law enforcement has to submit reports regarding seized assets to the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia.

It’s a step in the right direction. Right now, the state’s civil forfeiture policies promote guilty on speculation and impair the idea of due process.