Can the Police Keep Your Money or Your Car By Saying its Drug Related?
“They took my car/money/gun/house!” Well, “they” is law enforcement. And yes, they can, and they do. Frequently. But that does not mean you, as a property owner are without recourse. If you find yourself minus a car, or stack of cash, you should consult with a seasoned attorney to find out what you can do to get it back. As Attorney Eric T. Kirk will tell you.
The rationale for the laws is, as a famous Baltimore jurist once said, “ain’t nothing good that comes of guns and drugs”.
Maryland law provides that essentially any property used in connection with narcotics trafficking may be seized by law enforcement, and forfeited to the State. Section 12-102 of the Criminal Procedure Article -Property subject to forfeiture- provides:
“The following are subject to forfeiture: (1) controlled dangerous substances manufactured, distributed, dispensed, acquired, or possessed in violation of … law; (2) raw materials, products, and equipment used, or intended for use, in manufacturing, compounding, processing, delivering, importing, or exporting a controlled dangerous substance…; (3) property used or intended for use as a container for property described in item (1) or (2) of this subsection; (4) ….. conveyances, including aircraft, vehicles, or vessels used or intended to be used to transport, or facilitate the transportation, sale, receipt, possession, or concealment of property described in item (1) or (2) of this subsection; (5) books, records, and research, including formulas, microfilm, tapes, and data used or intended for use in violation of the Controlled Dangerous Substances law; (6)…. money or weapons used or intended to be used in connection with the unlawful manufacture,
distribution, dispensing, or possession of a controlled dangerous substance or controlled paraphernalia; (7) drug paraphernalia….; (8) controlled paraphernalia ….; (9) the … balance of the proceeds of a sale by a holder of an installment sale agreement under § 12-626 of the Commercial Law Article of goods seized under this subtitle; (10) …. real property; and (11) everything of value furnished, or intended to be furnished, in exchange for a controlled dangerous substance in violation of the Controlled Dangerous Substances law, all proceeds traceable to the exchange, and all negotiable instruments and securities used, or intended to be used, to facilitate any violation of the Controlled Dangerous Substances law.”
Not surprisingly, money is the most common property seized pursuant to this section.
The forfeiture law also provides that “[m]oney or weapons that are found in close proximity to a contraband controlled dangerous substance, controlled paraphernalia, or forfeitable records of the importation, manufacture, or distribution of controlled dangerous substances are contraband and presumed to be forfeitable”.
Similar laws are in effect throughout the county, and present the potential for abuse. A Washington Post investigation of the government’s efforts. “There have been 61,998 cash seizures made on highways and elsewhere since 9/11 without search warrants or indictments through the Equitable Sharing Program, totaling more than $2.5 billion. State and local authorities kept more than $1.7 billion of that while Justice, Homeland Security and other federal agencies received $800 million. Half of the seizures were below $8,800”.1
If a claimant can establish another, legitimate, source of the money, he or she may be able to rebut this presumption and regain their property.If you’ve had money property seized under this law, you may want to consult a seasoned lawyer. A lawyer can assist you in getting some, or all, or your property returned to you.