The penalties for criminal activity are different depending on the accusations that someone faces. Missouri judges can send people to prison, order them to pay large fines or require that they submit to probation after a guilty plea or conviction, depending on the nature of the charges that they’re convicted of. Yet, as serious as these consequences can be, people frequently focus on the immediate criminal consequences of interacting with police officers and may not realize that there can be secondary economic losses depending on the outcome of their charges.
Pleading guilty doesn’t just leave someone vulnerable to a judge’s sentence. It also opens the door to civil asset forfeiture, which can deprive someone of their valuable assets. Civil asset forfeiture is the process through which the state lays claim to personal belongings or capital directly related to criminal activity. When can the state seize private property in Missouri?
Missouri does have limits on asset forfeiture
Some states have civil asset forfeiture rules that are very easy for police officers and law enforcement agencies to abuse. The organizations may receive funding based on what property they seize. They can also potentially take the property of those not convicted of a crime.
In Missouri, most of the time, there will need to be a criminal conviction for the state to proceed with civil asset forfeiture. Not only does the state need to secure a conviction, but there will need to be evidence establishing that someone either used those resources to commit a crime or obtained those resources because of criminal activity.
Assets that are vulnerable could include vehicles, real property and financial accounts. Sometimes, the conviction of one individual can lead to the seizure of assets belonging to a third party. Those in a shared housing arrangement might find themselves in this kind of situation. Unfortunately, Missouri’s laws require that an innocent third party prove they had no involvement in the criminal activity to protect or redeem their property.
It should be noted that there isn’t a direct funding incentive for law enforcement agencies in Missouri, although that doesn’t automatically preclude the possibility of someone losing their assets for questionable reasons. Fighting back against civil asset forfeiture might involve going to court to protect specific assets or mounting a criminal defense to avoid a conviction that will put property at risk.