Suspected criminals are subject to having their assets seized through a somewhat mysterious process known as civil forfeiture. While highly controversial, civil forfeiture laws were designed to make it harder for organized crime and drug traffickers to ply their trade — by taking away their tools and the tangible profits of their crimes, including money, vehicles, homes, jewelry and more.

Or, at least, that’s supposed to be how it works. In reality, ordinary people can end up having their assets seized even though they’ve never been charged with a crime — and are entirely innocent of wrongdoing. That’s because current asset forfeiture laws don’t require a criminal charge against a human being to be put into effect. The police merely need to assert their suspicion that the items they want to seize could be used in a crime to put asset forfeiture procedures into action.

Completely innocent people can have their assets ceased simply because the situation seemed “suspicious” to a random officer.

How does civil forfeiture work?

Take this for an example: You’re traveling on vacation with your family and you have a large amount of cash. You are pulled over by a police officer in an area that is known for theft and drug dealing. It is possible that your vehicle will be searched. If the police find your cash, they may presume that this cash was being used for or obtained through illegal drug activity. Due to this suspicion, they may decide to seize the cash — and you may have a very hard time getting it back again.

Innocent victims shouldn’t fall prey to abuses of power like civil forfeiture for no reason. An attorney can help you fight back against the abusive system that allows this to happen.