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Police may abuse power in conducting criminal investigations

Search and seizure law is an important topic when it comes to criminal defense. Police are bound by various rules in conducting criminal investigations in order to protect criminal suspects from abuse of considerable state power. When police fail to abide by their duties in conducting a criminal investigation, they not only compromise the rights of the criminal suspect, but potentially weaken any case that prosecutors may eventually bring against the suspect.

One specific issue in this area is civil forfeiture, which refers to the ability of law enforcement to confiscate assets or items believed to be connected with criminal activity. Under Texas law, law enforcement are able to keep up to 90 percent of the proceeds from forfeited property, giving officers an incentive to go after cases involving substantial assets. 

To justify civil forfeiture in court, the government only has to show it is more likely than not that the property is connected to criminal activity. This standard is known as “preponderance of the evidence,” and is typical in civil cases. Some have said the standard needs to be higher in criminal cases. Another aspect of civil forfeiture is that there does not have to be a criminal conviction before police can confiscate the property.

It is important for people to beware of potential abuses in the area of civil forfeitures. Like searches and seizures in criminal investigations, civil forfeiture does not give police unchecked power. Those who are adversely affected should contact an attorney experienced in handling such cases. Doing so will help ensure the best possible outcome in the case. 

Source: Forbes, “Cops In Texas Seize Millions By ‘Policing for Profit’,” Nick Sibilla, June 5, 2014.