You have worked hard for the things you own. So it may come as a surprise when the government informs you that your car or your house is being confiscated – even though no criminal charges have been laid against you. Through the process of civil forfeiture, the provincial government can do just that if there is some evidence connecting your property to criminal activity, whether you were aware of that activity or not.
The Purpose of Civil Forfeiture Laws
Civil forfeiture laws are common in Canada and the United States. These laws were enacted to deprive criminals of the assets they use to commit crimes and the assets they buy with the spoils of their crimes. For instance, by confiscating houses and other real estate used to grow, manufacture or distribute drugs, it was thought the government could reduce drug-related crime. Or by forcing criminals to give up cars, cash or property they have acquired by committing crimes, the government believed it could discourage criminal behaviour. These forfeited assets would then be sold or otherwise lawfully disposed of, providing the government with capital to spend on various law enforcement-related expenditures.
But these laws are now being used more and more for a less honourable purpose – expedience. Prosecuting crime is difficult. The state cannot deprive citizens of their liberty and stigmatize them with criminal convictions unless it gathers the necessary evidence legally, respects the rights of the accused person, and proves guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in an open and fair legal process. With civil forfeiture, many of these safeguards are bypassed. To start with, the threshold for success is lower – proof on a balance of probabilities – and the individual can be forced to submit to examination under oath. Why prosecute an individual when you can seize a valuable asset using civil forfeiture proceedings, especially when the owner may lack the knowledge or the resources to dispute the seizure? This is the unseemly side of civil forfeiture that the public is beginning to see, as more and more innocent people find their property being confiscated.
Where You Can Turn for Help
The government counts on property owners either not to dispute civil forfeiture or to be intimidated by the civil forfeiture process. This lack of opposition paves the way for the flow of assets and cash into government hands with minimal effort. It does not have to be this way. Enlisting the help of a knowledgeable Vancouver criminal defence lawyer familiar with the forfeiture process may help you keep part or all of your property. At N.J. Preovolos Law Corporation, we have the experience and knowledge you need to face civil forfeiture authorities. Do not delay. Contact N.J. Preovolos Law Corporation right away for a free consultation.