Alabama is one of the worst states where a cash seizure can happen. State lawmakers claim that their existing asset forfeiture policy is critical to helping put an end to drug trafficking in the state. Some critics of Alabama’s approach is more about law enforcement agencies profiting off of unassuming motorists who aren’t engaged in criminal activity than anything.
The Institute for Justice has assigned Alabama a D- score for their handling of civil forfeitures. The research shows that there’s a very low threshold that law enforcement officers must meet to be able to seize an individual’s cash or other valuable assets.
An Alabama law enforcement agency that seizes your property in the state retains any proceeds from the sale of that property. They’re not required to secure a defendant’s conviction to do so. There are also few options available to individuals to get their property back once it’s been seized.
Law enforcement agencies, who are represented by prosecutors generally don’t have to show much evidence that criminal activity occurred to be able to keep the money that they seized for themselves. They only have to provide “reasonable satisfaction” to the court that the property seized was somehow being used for criminal purposes. If they can prove this using the preponderance of the evidence standard, then any money or assets that were seized may be permanently forfeited.
The burden ultimately falls on the shoulders of the defendant to prove their innocence if they want to have any chance of getting their property returned to them.
Critics of Alabama’s asset forfeiture policies argue that they incentivize law enforcement officers to initiate unwarranted traffic stops for minor infractions. They note that many individuals aren’t aware of their rights and consent to searches of their vehicles when they’re requested to do so. They also claim reasonable suspicion more frequently as the grounds for searching vehicles when a motorist initially declines their request to do so. Many seizures occur during such stops.
Since law enforcement agencies are entitled to keep 100% of the assets that they seize or that are forfeited to them in Alabama, they seem to be even more aggressive in making unlawful stops. If you’ve had your property seized although you weren’t engaging in criminal activity, then an asset forfeiture attorney in Montgomery can advise you of defense strategies that you may be able to pursue in your case.