On August 28, an individual was pulled over for a traffic violation by Missouri State Highway Patrol. State Troopers subsequently found 79 Oxycodone pills and a large sum of cash in the vehicle. The man was arrested and charged with felony delivery of a controlled substance and on October 24, the cash – amounting to over $12,000 – was ordered to be seized through the forfeiture act by a Miller County judge. Given this development, it’s important to understand the forfeiture act and to know what to do if you’re pulled over and asked to have your car searched.
What is the Forfeiture Act?
The forfeiture act gives law enforcement the authority to seize property if it is believed that criminal activity has taken place and that money or other assets have been gained from criminal activity. This includes criminal possession of drugs, illegal gambling, bribery, racketeering, and fraud. The intent behind this is to take away illegal gains so that criminal activity is not profitable.
In Columbia, MO, forfeitures are defined in two ways: criminal and civil. In criminal forfeiture, criminal charges are laid against an individual, and the court orders that the assets be forfeited to the state if he/she is found guilty. In civil forfeiture, no criminal charges need to be laid for law enforcement to seize assets – it is a separate proceeding from criminal proceedings. The burden of proof in civil proceedings is lower, meaning that criminal guilt does not need to be proven for assets to be seized.
What to do if You’re Pulled Over and Asked to Have Your Car Searched?
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are stopped by law enforcement and asked to have your vehicle searched, it is important that you remain calm and exercise your legal rights. Even if you’re not carrying drugs, but do possess large amounts of cash, there’s always the possibility that it will raise suspicion and potentially lead to forfeiture.
fiThere are some specific steps that you can take to protect yourself in such a situation. First, remember that law enforcement cannot automatically search your vehicle unless they have a warrant, there is probable cause, or unless you provide your consent.
Always remain respectful, but do not make any verbal or written statements that could hurt your case, and don’t discuss anything with the police other than why you’re being pulled over. Additionally, do not consent to any search. Even if you know that there is nothing illegal in your vehicle, it is best to politely decline the search and assert your rights. If your vehicle is searched and illegal items are found, it’s also important that you do not admit to anything.
The best course of action at this point is to call a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible – they can provide legal advice and assist you in asserting your rights.
How a Forfeiture Act Defense Lawyer Can Help
Legally, if cash or other assets are not involved in a crime, then criminal proceedings cannot be used to seize them. In civil forfeiture cases, however, criminal guilt does not need to be proven for assets to be seized. This can be a complicated process, and in such cases, owners may have to participate in a legal action to get their assets back. This is where a criminal defense lawyer can help.
A criminal defense lawyer can help protect you from forfeitures, as they are familiar with the laws and procedures of criminal forfeiture in Columbia, Missouri. They will ensure that your rights are not violated when it comes to vehicle searches, and if any evidence is used against you in court, a criminal defense attorney can challenge it.
Contact Us if You’ve Had Cash or Property Seized
If you find yourself in a situation where criminal charges and/or forfeiture proceedings have been brought against you in Columbia, the criminal defense lawyers at The Law Office of Chris Miller can help. Our criminal defense team has years of experience in criminal law and criminal forfeiture proceedings – we understand how to protect your legal rights and will work to secure a favorable outcome for you. Contact us today for a free consultation.