Facing any kind of drug crime in Missouri is a frightening prospect. After all, Missouri has relatively conservative laws and citizens, meaning that your jury will likely have strong opinions about drug offenses.
It is terrifying consider the potential impact of a drug conviction on your future. The consequences of a conviction will likely include jail time, fines, a criminal record and even the loss of your assets. Missouri has a civil asset forfeiture law that allows law enforcement to seize any property that they allege was either used in the commission of a drug offense or purchased with money obtained by committing drug crimes.
What is civil asset forfeiture?
For those unfamiliar with the term, civil asset forfeiture refers to the legal right of law enforcement to seize assets that they believe were either purchased with proceeds from a criminal act or used in the commission of a crime. Essentially, civil asset forfeiture is a way to financially dissuade individuals from committing drug offenses.
Any amount of money an individual might make committing a drug crime, whether they choose to manufacture or traffic substances, can result in the loss of that money and any assets purchased with that money. Law enforcement will look into your financial records. Anything you purchase with cash may be come suspect if you face accusations of drug crimes.
Using cash to purchase a vehicle is typically a financially responsible decision. Compared with financing, a cash purchase is more affordable. However, even if you saved for months to purchase your car, the fact that you purchased it with cash may allow law enforcement to seize it. They can then either use it as part of their operations or sell it and use the proceeds to fund their ongoing law enforcement work.
Avoiding a conviction protects you from asset forfeiture
Every state has its own approach to civil asset forfeiture. In some states, law enforcement only needs to have a reasonable suspicion that an asset was used in the commission of the crime or purchased with proceeds from a crime to seize said asset. Any item, from a vehicle to a television or reserves of cash may become subject to law enforcement seizure. Many states do not actually require a criminal conviction for law enforcement to retain seized assets.
Thankfully, Missouri has a more common sense approach. Only those convicted of an offense will have to worry about civil asset forfeiture. If law enforcement sees your possessions when they arrest you, but you successfully defend against the crime, they will have to return those assets.
Defending yourself against allegations of drug crimes is particularly important if law enforcement has attempted to seize your property. If you find yourself in the situation, you should educate yourself about opportunities to defend yourself, as well as the state's civil asset forfeiture laws.