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Forfeiture: An Additional Consequence for Drug Crimes

March 8, 2019

While it oftentimes does not get as much press, in addition to other possible penalties, someone who is suspected of breaking Kentucky's drug laws also faces the prospect of what is called civil forfeiture.

Civil forfeiture is a process by which the police in this state can seize and then sell a person's property because they suspect that the property was being used as part of criminal activity.

For example, if a Jackson resident gets accused of drug crimes, and the alleged crime involved a vehicle, then local authorities can seize and then sell the vehicle.

According to one public interest group, Kentucky's laws about civil forfeiture are strict to the point of being unfair. Police in this state does, however, have to meet a relatively high standard of proof before taking home or other real estates.

However, for other property, including high-value items like cars, all they need show is slight evidence that the property is connected to a criminal enterprise. Police need not actually convict a person of a crime before taking the property. Conveniently, all the proceeds of the sale of any seized property go to law enforcement activities.

A recent decision from the United States Supreme Court shows some promise for making the situation better in this state. While the facts were slightly different, the Court viewed civil forfeiture as a form of a fine and decided officially that states, like the federal government, must not impose fines that are excessive.

Kentucky residents should pay careful attention to legal developments in this area. Those with specific questions about civil forfeiture are encouraged to speak with an experienced attorney.

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