In the 1800s, the U.S. Supreme Court took up the issue regarding the U.S. government’s power to seize property even if no one had been convicted of a crime. The issue arose when the U.S. government seized a Spanish pirate ship called the Palmyra. The king of Spain wanted the ship back, but the U.S. said no.
The Court ruled that it didn’t matter that no one had been convicted of a crime because the suspects were beyond the reach of the U.S. courts.
Moving forward to the present day, the state’s power to seize property it believes was used in some type of criminal activity has expanded to great lengths. This is called civil asset forfeiture.
South Carolina Civil Asset Forfeiture
In the state of South Carolina, and throughout the United States, the federal and/or state law enforcement can seize your money and property, even if you haven’t been accused of a crime.
Between South Carolina law enforcement agencies and solicitors’ offices, the state takes in millions of dollars every year by seizing property, including cash, homes, land, cars, and other tangible assets from citizens who may or may not be involved in the selling or buying of illegal drugs.
In fact, civil asset forfeiture in South Carolina is so prevalent, that civil liberty advocates a defense attorney are beginning to demand reform, and there are a few South Carolina lawmakers who are pushing for legislation to be passed that will stop what some are calling, “highway robbery” in South Carolina.
If you’ve been a victim of civil asset forfeiture, you should contact experienced South Carolina civil asset forfeiture attorney, David R. Price Jr., P.A. to assist you in your attempt to recover your assets.
How to get your Assets Returned in South Carolina
In most cases, we’re accustomed to the premise that you are “innocent until proven guilty.” That premise gets turned upside down when it comes to South Carolina civil asset forfeiture. If you want to get your property back, you must be able to prove that you didn’t obtain it through illegal means.
For example, if the property is drugs, counterfeit good, or items you have no legal right to possess, this is called contraband per se, and you would not be able to get those items returned to you in South Carolina.
If the property is legal but was seized because the police claim it was used in or obtained by illegal activity on your part, this is called derivative contraband. This could include money you got by selling drugs, property used to manufacture drugs, or the cars or other motor vehicles that were used to traffic the drugs.
The problem is that many times in South Carolina, the police seize property that wasn’t used in any type of criminal activity or obtained illegally. Additionally, the police understand that you aren’t going to hire a South Carolina civil asset forfeiture attorney if they seize a small amount of money. The knowledge that you won’t want to open yourself up to that type of close scrutiny.
However, you do have options. If you choose to fight the South Carolina civil asset forfeiture, you can:
- You or your South Carolina civil asset forfeiture attorney can file an answer to the state of South Carolina’s forfeiture complaint within 30 days after you received it; or
- File your own lawsuit for conversion (theft) if the state of South Carolina has not filed a lawsuit within a reasonable amount of time.
Fighting a Forfeiture Complaint in South Carolina
In the event your property was seized by the police in South Carolina, they are supposed to file a complaint requesting the court to give them the funds, and they need to file it within a “reasonable time.”
If the South Carolina police don’t file a lawsuit you can file a lawsuit against them asking the court to give you back your funds.
The state of South Carolina must be able to prove probable cause exists. This means that they believe the property they seized was connected to an illegal drug transaction. This means that the money must have been either:
- Located close to the drugs; or
- The money was intended to be used for or were proceeds from the purchase of drugs.
If the state of South Carolina can establish probable cause, then you and your South Carolina civil asset forfeiture attorney must prove you got the money from a legitimate source, which you can do through receipts, bank records, or other types of testimony.
Innocent Owner in South Carolina
In some cases, the South Carolina police may seize a car or other type of motor vehicle that doesn’t belong to the person who was driving it. It could be that you are an “innocent owner” and didn’t know your car was being used for drug transactions. This may be a good reason to ask the court to return your property to you.
How a South Carolina Civil Asset Forfeiture Lawyer Can Help You
If the police in South Carolina have seized your property, you should immediately contact a South Carolina civil forfeiture attorney like David R. Price Jr., P.A. He can help you to either:
- Answer the forfeiture complaint filed in South Carolina; and/or
- File a lawsuit against the state of South Carolina if they don’t file their complaint in a reasonable amount of time.
Your South Carolina civil asset forfeiture lawyer will assist you in the gathering of any evidence you may need to recover your property, answer the state’s lawsuit or file your own lawsuit for conversion, negotiate with the State of South Carolina attorneys, and try your case before a judge or jury if the state doesn’t return your property.
If the state of South Carolina is attempting to take your money, cars, or other property, you need an experienced and strong advocate like David R. Price Jr., P.A. on your side.