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Can police seize property without proof of a crime in Georgia?

On Behalf of | Feb 24, 2023 | Firm News

There is often a financial incentive for someone to break the law. Someone may steal from people or sell drugs because they want or desperately need money. Therefore, many criminal charges in Georgia risk economic consequences as a way of deterring those who need money from committing crimes that may cost them dearly in a financial sense.

Fines are commonly imposed when someone is convicted of criminal wrongdoing, and the state can potentially seize any ill-gotten proceeds related to drug distribution, prostitution or other illegal activity as well.

Many Georgia residents feel that it is reasonable that the state would seize the property of someone convicted of a crime. But, they may have a different opinion if they are the ones facing the loss of valuable assets for questionable reasons. All too often, muddy circumstances beg the question “Can adults in Georgia lose personal property to the state if they have not been convicted of a crime?”

Civil asset forfeiture can lead to abuses

Georgia state law does not technically require a criminal conviction for police officers to take someone’s property. People at the airport could lose large amounts of cash, and those stopped in traffic might end up losing their vehicles to state seizure.

Currently, civil asset forfeiture rules in Georgia allow police officers to take any property that they believe plays a role in criminal activity or came from the proceeds of such activity. They don’t need to secure a conviction against the owner of that property. In some cases, they may not even arrest that person.

Organizations that track corruption and abuses of state authority rate Georgia’s approach to civil asset forfeiture poorly. Police departments directly benefit from civil asset forfeiture, which means there is an incentive to take property from people who may not have actually broken the law.

Those who lose property can fight back

Someone deprived of their vehicle or the money they intended to use to purchase a purebred dog, which could be thousands of dollars, can potentially go to court and get their property back. Those accused of criminal activity who may have assets vulnerable because of that can also take steps in court to protect their personal resources.

Learning more about Georgia criminal statutes can help those who are worried about the loss of their property. Seeking legal guidance can also be helpful.