What Do Police Do with Seized Money and Property?

If you are charged with a crime, the police have the right to seize any money or items which may be proceeds from the crime or used in committing the crime. This is the essence of the Asset Forfeiture Act. In some situations, an experienced Greenville criminal defense lawyer can help you recover your seized money and property.

To understand the legal mechanisms behind this process, we will discuss when and what type of property police officers have the right to seize.

Officers Need Probable Cause to Seize Assets

First of all, a police officer must prove that they had probable cause to seize your property. This could be:

  • They discovered drugs and money on a body search
  • The car you drive resembles the description of a vehicle used in a bank robbery
  • You are under investigation for financial crimes and the assets may represent proceeds obtained in an unlawful manner

Also, according to the Asset Forfeiture Guidebook, any proceeds from gambling are forfeited by default and can be seized without any further probable cause.

What Types of Assets Can the Police Seize?

There are no limits to the type of property police officers can seize during a criminal investigation. For example, in a drug case, the officers can seize:

  • All controlled substances and their containers
  • Raw materials, products and equipment used in manufacturing drugs
  • The building and the furniture knowingly used in the production of drugs
  • Books, records and research products used in relation to the production and trafficking of drugs
  • Any means of transportation used to hide, transport or keep drugs
  • Cash, bank accounts, negotiable instruments
  • Any kind of valuables (jewelry, artworks, electronic devices, etc.)

All the police officers have to state is that the above mentioned property was connected to the unlawful activity of possessing, manufacturing or trafficking drugs.

find out how police treat money and property which are seized

What Happens to Seized Money and Property?

After the property is seized, the police place it in safe keeping during the case. Some or all of it may be introduced as evidence during your trial. However, the police can seize the assets even if they do not charge you with a crime or you are convicted in a court.

The probable cause means that there is a connection between the goods and a crime and this is enough for a legal seizure. From now on, you have the burden of proof to show that the property was obtained in a legitimate manner.

Also, if you are found not guilty at the end of your case, your property will be returned to you.

Can the Police Keep Seized Assets?

You should discuss this with a Greenville criminal defense lawyer as soon as your assets are seized, because there’s a good chance it will not be returned. If you cannot prove that you obtained the goods lawfully or you end up convicted of the crime you were charged with, the state will keep your property.

Actually, seized assets represent a significant source of funding for police departments. According to South Carolina rules, seized money and property is divided as follows:

  • 75% to the law enforcement agency
  • 20% to the prosecuting agency
  • 5% to the State Treasury

As you can see, the prosecutor has a vested interest in getting you convicted – they get a share of the proceeds from the seized property. And this is just one of the reasons why they will always push for the most severe classification of your crime for which they can get a conviction.

Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with a Skilled Greenville Criminal Defense Lawyer!

The police have the right to seize your money and assets even without charging you – they just need probable cause that they are connected with a crime. And the process of getting back your property is extremely complex and fraught with the risk of failure if you act alone.

You should get in touch with an experienced Greenville criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible after your property was seized to start fighting for your rights. As a new client, you benefit from a free case review, so call us today at 864-263-1679!