Indiana is allowed to seize property related to suspected criminal activity. This property is usually in the form of cash, but it can also include houses, cars or even electronics.
The real question in Indiana forfeiture law is: “What counts as suspected criminal activity?”
Like pretty much everything else, this is open to interpretation. If the police serve a warrant on a home because they suspect one of the residents is dealing drugs, does that mean the entire house is subject to forfeiture? What if it can be proven that other residents were unaware of the criminal activity? Does the analysis change if we’re talking about parents instead of roommates?
If one person mails cash to another, and a drug dog catches the scent of narcotics on the parcel in question, is it safe for the police to reasonably assume that the cash has been used in a crime? How about if the parcel is opened and contains no drugs? What if you’re aware of the American Chemical Society study that suggests as much as 80% of paper money contains narcotic residue? Does law enforcement’s assumption begin to look less reasonable?
For the most part, the State of Indiana simply confiscates the property, files a forfeiture action, and counts on the fact that the owner won’t kick up a fuss. More often than not, this approach actually works. Many people are too scared to fight back. Some may not even realize that fighting back is an option. Most victims of a forfeiture action think there’s no point in trying to prove their property’s innocence. A few people might even manage to convince themselves that once the State realizes its mistake, they’re going to get their stuff back (spoiler alert: they won’t).
The first thing you need to know is that it is possible to contest a forfeiture action. Forfeitures are technically civil in nature—not criminal—meaning the burden of proof is on the State to prove that it’s more likely than not that the property was used in criminal activity. The second thing you should know is that no forfeiture action is a lost cause so long as you have a valid (legal) explanation for the property that’s been seized. There’s no law that prohibits you from possessing cash, and it’s a mistake to think there’s no hope when the government takes your property.
The absolute worst thing you can do is nothing. If the State seizes your property, and you take no action, you lose. It doesn’t matter if you’re charged with a crime and acquitted. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you’re ever charged at all. If you don’t take steps to recover your property from the State, you’ll never get it back. This is exactly what Indiana wants.
If you or a loved one has had their property seized by the State of Indiana, you owe it to yourself call the Marc Lopez Law Firm at 317-632-3642. We can discuss options, strategies, and a game plan to try and get your stuff back.