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A look at civil forfeiture in Colorado

Prior to some amending that took place in 2002, Colorado had a very interesting law that many residents didn't even know existed. Called civil forfeiture, it allowed police and law enforcement agencies to seize property from a person, even if that person was never accused of a crime or any charges were filed.

To many, civil forfeiture overstepped the law and borderlined a violation of peoples' Fourth Amendment right. Even though they were right to an extent and changes were made, our state still has civil forfeiture laws. The only difference now is that the laws that govern its practice are quite different than what they were prior to 2002, which is what we will look at in this week's blog post.

One major change to civil forfeiture in our state is how property can be seized. The law now states that police "must have clear and convincing evidence that the property is related to criminal activity" in order for it to be subject to forfeiture. The burden of proof is also now on the shoulders of prosecutors who must prove that the owner actively took part in the alleged criminal activity instead of property owners having to prove their innocence.

As you may or may not know, police prior to the 2002 amendments were allowed to keep 100 percent of the funds generated from the civil forfeiture. Now, law enforcement is only allowed to keep a portion of the funds with the remaining amount going toward "expanding substance abuse treatment and detoxification in the local area where the forfeiture occurred."

Although the changes to Colorado's laws were a way to "provide greater due process protection for property owners in a civil forfeiture action," some people may still be concerned about their rights and whether civil forfeiture encroaches on those rights. It's because of this concern that many people will continue to seek guidance from a skilled defense attorney, especially if the forfeiture is in conjunction with a serious criminal charge.

Sources: The Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, "Changes in Colorado's Asset Forfeiture Laws and Procedures," Accessed Nov. 13, 2014

The Institute of Justice, "Colorado Forfeiture Law," Accessed Nov. 13, 2014

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