In Louisiana, if a person is accused of having committed a crime, their property can be seized through civil forfeiture. These seizures are designed to penalize people who commit crimes with law enforcement taking the property accrued through those criminal activities. There is debate over how fair this process is and states are graded on their laws.
Louisiana has a poor grade for civil forfeiture laws
There are several concerns about civil forfeiture to the point where Louisiana received a D+ grade. A primary issue with it is that it might not be done in a wholly transparent and objective way. Law enforcement benefits from civil forfeiture. It accrues a substantial profit as it gets 80% in total. The agency that seized the assets or property will get 60%. Twenty percent is for the prosecutors. The last 20% is placed in a criminal court fund.
Those who are subject to civil forfeiture might be caught in the middle. A third party must show they are innocent to regain the property. In addition, when the property is seized, the prosecutor simply needs to show that it was somehow linked to a crime by a preponderance of the evidence. Preponderance means it is more likely than not. Still, in some cases, a person faces the prospect of losing their property while the case proceeds.
Advocates for reform say that the process of civil forfeiture should be ended. If not, they suggest the following:
- The proceeds go to a fund that is separate from law enforcement
- There be increased protections
- Greater transparency with increased accountability.
Understand how civil forfeiture works
Anyone accused of a crime can face civil forfeiture. However, having property and assets seized can be a financial and personal burden. This can impact people regardless of their age and situation, whether a college student, a working professional or an older person. There are options to address civil forfeiture and a criminal charge. They should all be explored.