Asset forfeiture is big business for local governments across Louisiana and the United States. According to the Washington Post and other sources, cash and property seizures across the country by state, local, and federal government exceeded the total take by burglaries for 2014. That means governments across our country took more from private citizens than burglars took from break-ins.
Each year, the Gouner Law Office represents people whose cash and property are seized–most of the time in traffic stops. It usually happens like this:
Police stop a car for traffic violation and ask the driver whether or not he or she is carrying currency. If the answer is yes, and the amount of money is more than a few hundred dollars, the officer will take the money. The motorist then has to fight through a complicated process to get the money back. Without the help of an attorney, it is extraordinarily difficult to succeed.
Normally, no arrest is made and no crime is committed, other than a minor traffic infraction. People often have a legitimate reason to carry several thousand dollars in cash. Maybe they are planning to buy a car or, in the case of immigrants, traveling back to their home country to help relatives. Regardless of the situation, the process to retrieve the cash is difficult and costly.
It is not just drug dealers and bad guys who are having their money and property taken. Good, hard-working people who do not have the resources to fight the fight to get their money back are also subject to asset seizure.
Here are some news stories that put asset seizure in the context of a few real-life situations: