There are a number of secondary consequences that people face during interactions with police or as a result of criminal charges. Certain defenses can result in someone losing their license to drive. Others may put people at risk of losing their personal property.
Vehicles, real estate and even cash can all be susceptible to civil asset forfeiture by law enforcement authorities in Texas. Civil asset forfeiture is a legal way of saying that police take your possessions with no intention of giving them back. Is it legal for police to seize your assets?
Police seize assets if they can connect them to criminal activity
Under Texas law, the state has the authority to take possessions either used in the commission of a crime or purchased with capital earned through criminal activities. Although it is possible for police to invoke their right to engage in civil asset forfeiture over any felony criminal act under Texas law, it is often an alleged drug offense that leads to officers taking someone’s property.
For example, police officers might take the vehicle that a drug dealer used to drive to meet their customers or seize the home from someone if they find a meth lab inside. Expensive electronics, designer clothing and other valuable items likely purchased with money earned through illegal drug sales may wind-up seized by officers as well.
Innocent people sometimes wind up losing their property too
Maybe you recently found a classic car that was just like your first vehicle back in high school. Perhaps you made arrangements to purchase used designer handbags at a discount. While you were on your way to complete the transaction with a significant amount of cash, you got stopped by police officers, who proceeded to accuse you of involvement in criminal activity and take your money. About 40% of all asset seizures in Texas start with a traffic stop.
Officers may claim that simply having that much cash on hand was indicative of likely criminal activity. They might also go so far as to test individual dollar bills for drug residue, even though that residue may have been left by someone who handled that money long before it reached you. While it may be difficult to do so, it is possible for you to push back against the police seizure of your assets in Texas, especially if you never wind up convicted of a criminal offense.