Unfortunately you got stopped by the police while driving and you had something in your car that was illegal that resulted in your arrest – maybe your stash of THC cartridges, some loose leaf marijuana, and the cash you had been saving up. Your main concern is of course the pending criminal case against you, but did you know the state can also seize the drugs, cash and even your vehicle?
It’s called civil forfeiture, and it’s legal in Georgia under the Uniform Civil Forfeiture Procedure Act. The State can seize any assets it claims were used in furtherance of the illegal activity. So what do you do? You need to protect yourself in the criminal case and also in the civil forfeiture case. You’ll know your property has been seized because you’ll be given a Notice of Seizure either by the police at the time of your arrest, or recently after. Timing is important here, because you have only 30 days to notify the prosecutor’s office that you are asserting a claim on the property. During this time you’ll want to gather all the documentation you have to show that your seized property was not used in furtherance of the illegal activity. This could be proof of purchase of the vehicle, pay stubs from your employer, etc. A knowledgeable attorney can file the notice of your claim with the proper documentation, ensuring that it gets to the right people.
From there the State will serve an official document on you called a Complaint. They must do so within 30 days of receiving the notice of your claim. Once you have been served with the Complaint, you then have only 30 days to respond by filing what is called an Answer. Once all the paperwork is submitted, the court will hold a bench trial, usually within 60 days, to determine if your property should be returned to you.
This is a multi-step, technical process, and our law firm can help you navigate it to get your property back. If you’re facing a criminal case with civil forfeiture of your property, call the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.