Revised Arizona Civil and Criminal Forfeiture Laws Affecting Your Property Rights

Arizona has just signed into effect a revised law relating to the government’s ability to seize and keep your property.  This has been labeled as an extremely effective tool for law enforcement to use in RICO (“racketeering”) cases.  So what is racketeering?  Isn’t that just for organized crime, the “mob”, Goodfellas, Sopranos, and The Godfather?  Well, its a little wider than that.  In Arizona “racketeering” is broadly defined to include most criminal offenses including receiving stolen property, deadly weapons, fireworks, acts against animal research facility, etc, etc (See Arizona Revised Statute 13-2301 Definitions).  Racketeering also applies to any “Criminal syndicate”, meaning any combination of persons or enterprises engaging, or having the purpose of engaging, on a continuing basis in conduct that violates any one or more provisions of any felony statute of this state.

So what does this mean?  Well if your suspected of engaging in any criminal activity, the police and/or governmental agency can take your property, including money, vehicles, personal property, and also seek additional civil penalties against you including treble damages (3x), costs of suit, attorney fees, etc, etc, against you (Arizona Revised Statute 13-2314).  Where does all this property go?  Well its pooled and then used by the government.

Wait, but don’t I have rights?  Can they just take my property and not give it back?

Well HB2477’s amendments does provide a procedure to get your property back, but its not that simple.  The government naturally has an interest in keeping your money and property.  This is where an experienced criminal attorney can help.  It is important for a person who has had their property taken by law enforcement to understand the ins-and-outs of getting their property back, and how to do it.

Can I get my property back if no charges are filed, I’m acquitted, or my conviction vacated?

In April 2017 the Supreme Court of the United States issued a ruling in Nelson v. Colorado (2017) 137 S.Ct. 1249 that allowed criminal defendants, once cleared of all charges, to seek return of their property.  Colorado had claimed that since the defendant’s property was taken while the defendants were convicted, the state could keep their property, despite these convictions being vacated at a later date.  The Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg, in her opinion wrote that “once those convictions were erased, the presumption of their innocence was restored. . . for Colorado may not presume a person, adjudged guilty of no crime, nonetheless guilty enough for monetary exactions.”

If you’ve had your property taken by the the State of Arizona, or by “the Feds”, you still have rights under Arizona’s newly revamped civil forfeiture laws, including the right to return of property if your acquitted or your conviction vacated.

Contact our office for an evaluation.