When police raid a building (after obtaining a proper warrant of course) they will usually take items related to potential criminal charges.  For a crime like drug trafficking, this usually means taking items that are taken when they are “incident to arrest,” by search warrant, consent or with a seizure order.  The items that are usually seized include things like “drug money,” vehicles, real estate, firearms, drug paraphernalia, and other property.

When Can Police Seize My Assets?

There are generally 4 times when the police can seize a person’s personal property.  This includes when items are seized “incident to arrest,” by search warrant, consent or with a seizure order.  Incident to arrest means that the police, while searching you for potentially committing a crime, find certain items (for example a crack pipe in your pocket). Those items, so long as the search was justified, can be seized and later used against you.  A search warrant is a court order issued by a judge or Supreme Court Official that allows the police to conduct a search of a person or property (like a house) in order to find evidence of a crime and to confiscate evidence.  However, in order to be granted a search warrant, the police must show that there is “probable cause.” Probable cause means that there is “a reasonable belief that a person has committed a crime.”  However, there is 1 exception to this rule, it is called the “hot pursuit” rule in which if a police officer is in “hot pursuit” of a suspected criminal.  If a person consents to giving an item to the police, there generally is not an issue, unless the person feels that they are coerced into giving the item over to the police.  Finally, if there is a seizure order, then a person must give up possession of their item.

What Happens After An Item Is Seized?

Generally, an item is seized because it may be used as a piece of evidence against the potential criminal.  These items are usually catalogues and kept in a secure storage location.  Each item usually has a log of who had the item and when in order to create a “chain of evidence” (meaning a person did not interfere or change out the item).  However, after a criminal investigation, most items are returned to the person, unless they fall into the War On Drugs Asset Forfeiture laws.   This allows the police and/or government to hold onto items/property/real estate if the owner is engaged in illegal activities (like they used their car to transport cocaine).  The items that are not returned are usually put up for auction to the highest bidder.  The money made from the auction goes to the police, local government, and a drug-enforcement fund (used to support the drug enforcement teams). 

What do you think, should the government be able to sell your assets?  Even if they are used in illegal behavior?  Should someone else besides the police get the money from an auction?