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Why It's Nearly Impossible To Get Your Stuff Back After The Cops Seize It


The unnerving video geared towards cops has been getting negative press recently amid a campaign by a public interest law firm to reform civil forfeiture, which lets the cops take cash or property they believe was tied to a crime even if its owner is never arrested.

After cops seize that property, you can technically fight for it in court. But one of the main takeaways from the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) video is that it's nearly impossible to win.

Civil forfeiture cases have a "signifcantly lower standard of proof" than criminal cases, an assistant prosecutor named Sean D. McMurtry said in the CLE video. When cops take your stuff or money, they have to file a bizarre-sounding lawsuit "against" the stuff. (One lawsuit was actually called "US v. Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins.")

In criminal cases, the government has to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But in civil forfeiture cases, as in all civil cases, prosecutors just have to show a "preponderance of evidence" is in their favor. This effectively means somebody who would never be convicted of drug-dealing in court could still have their car taken away because it was allegedly used for pushing narcotics.

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