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GimmeBackMyTruck

Sheriff's investigator seized vehicle & is filing civil forfeiture to gain possession of my vehicle.

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I don't have any documents, court order summons, or any paperwork from the Jones county sheriff's Dept as of yet. I was told by Investigator Black of the Jones County Sheriff's Dept Crime Investigations Unit that he was seizing my vehicle and would be filing a civil forfeiture against me to gain permanent possession of my vehicle. I was arrested on Nov. 8 for driving on suspended license. Officers conducted search of my vehicle before asking my permission & without cause. A small amount of methamphetamine(less than 1gram) was found. There are no previous drug charges against me, no evidence of buying, selling, trafficking, distributing, ect. 

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1 hour ago, GimmeBackMyTruck said:

I don't have any documents, court order summons, or any paperwork from the Jones county sheriff's Dept as of yet. I was told by Investigator Black of the Jones County Sheriff's Dept Crime Investigations Unit that he was seizing my vehicle and would be filing a civil forfeiture against me to gain permanent possession of my vehicle. I was arrested on Nov. 8 for driving on suspended license. Officers conducted search of my vehicle before asking my permission & without cause. A small amount of methamphetamine(less than 1gram) was found. There are no previous drug charges against me, no evidence of buying, selling, trafficking, distributing, ect. 

 

Then you better get an attorney familiar with civil forfeitures in Georgia as soon as possible if you want to save the car from forfeiture. If the car is worth less than $25,000 Georgia law provides for a simplified procedure for forfeiture in which the state’s attorney posts notice of the seizure in the courthouse and is supposed to send to the person in possession of the property at the time of the seizure and/or the owner of the property (if known) a copy of that notice by regular mail. Thirty days after that notice is provided the property automatically goes to the state unless the owner or other person with an interest in the property files a claim with state’s attorney within that 30 day period. If a claim is submitted the state’s attorney must file the civil forfeiture action in court.

 

This is a civil action so the state only has to prove that the property is subject to seizure by a preponderance of the evidence, and the Georgia code provides the state with some helpful presumptions. Then the burden falls on the owner or other interested party to show that the owner/interested party:

"(A) Is not privy to criminal conduct giving rise to its forfeiture;

(B) Did not consent to the conduct giving rise to the forfeiture;

(C) Did not know of the conduct giving rise to the forfeiture;

(D) Did not know the conduct giving rise to the forfeiture was likely to occur;

(E) Should not have reasonably known the conduct giving rise to the forfeiture was likely to occur;

(F) Had not acquired and did not stand to acquire substantial proceeds from the conduct giving rise to its forfeiture other than as an interest holder in an arm's length commercial transaction;

(G) With respect to conveyances for transportation only, did not hold the property jointly, in common, or in community with a person whose conduct gave rise to the forfeiture;

(H) Does not hold the property for the benefit of or as nominee for any person whose conduct gave rise to its forfeiture, and, if the owner or interest holder acquired the interest through any such person, the owner or interest holder acquired it as a bona fide purchaser for value without knowingly taking part in an illegal transaction; and

(I) Acquired the interest:

     (i) Before the completion of the conduct giving rise to its forfeiture and the person whose conduct gave rise to its forfeiture did not have the authority to convey the interest to a bona fide purchaser for value at the time of the conduct; or

     (ii) After the completion of the conduct giving rise to its forfeiture:

          (I) As a bona fide purchaser for value without knowingly taking part in an illegal transaction;

          (II) Before the filing of a forfeiture lien on it and before the effective date of a notice of pending forfeiture relating to it and without notice of its seizure for forfeiture; and

          (III) At the time the interest was acquired, was reasonably without cause to believe that the property was subject to forfeiture or likely to become subject to forfeiture."

 

Georgia Code § 9-16-17(a)(2). Because it is a civil proceeding, you could lose the asset even if you are acquitted of the committing the crimes that the state said was the basis of the seizure action. You need to act quickly if you want to challenge this and you likely need a lawyer to help you if you want to succeed. Unfortunately that can cost  a lot and the state does not have to provide you a lawyer for it because it is a civil proceeding, not a criminal prosecution.

 

In general my view of the forfeiture systems of most jurisdictions in this country is that they are intentionally  stacked in favor of the government to help it grab assets and enrich itself. The rules are often stacked in a way that favors the government and makes it difficult for the owner to mount an effective challenge to the action, especially at a cost that doesn’t end up making the effort uneconomical. The laws provide little notice to the owner and the due process protections are sometimes very minimal. Moreover, these laws generally do not require the state to have to actually prove that the asset was used as part of the crime and Georgia law is no exception. It was not a surprise to me to see that there appear to be no Georgia appellate court decisions on the forfeiture law since many defendants facing forfeiture simply cannot afford to hire an attorney to wage the battle. The law enforcement value of most forfeitures I have seen is questionable at best and most forfeitures are, in my view, no more than a disguised money grab by the government. I detest most civil forfeiture laws and think, court opinions notwithstanding, that they violate the spirit if not the letter of the Constitution. But my personal opposition to most of these laws doesn’t really help you in fighting any seizure action that may occur for your vehicle.

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20 hours ago, Tax_Counsel said:

The law enforcement value of most forfeitures I have seen is questionable at best and most forfeitures are, in my view, no more than a disguised money grab by the government.

I totally agree.I don't really know a lot on this particular issue,but it has been my understanding,that when the state results to proceed with a civil forfeiture against someone,it is usually because,that person has engaged in criminal activity numerous times,using there personal property,such as committing a DUI in their car several times,at least that's one aspect of it.

Also,it's pretty common with drug dealers,when their caught to seize all monies,and property acquired or otherwise used in the course of their drug operations,which personally,I don't have a problem with at all.I think the states probably make more money on medium to large scale  drug dealing operations,than by any other source.The government,state and federal seizes all these cars and house,and then has these big auctions,selling them off.

Now given the facts,the op shared with us,I don't see why they would want to seize his car based on a single incident,unless there's more to the story.

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