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Asset Forfeiture in South Carolina

Police in Columbia, SC took $7,500 out of Roger Roberts' pocket during a traffic stop.

The police said his car resembled a vehicle used in a burglary, but it turned out he had nothing to do with that. In fact, Roberts wasn't accused of doing anything wrong.

Officers took his cash anyway and refused to give it back because the passenger in his car had a small amount of marijuana and cocaine in her purse.

In South Carolina, this happens so often that civil liberty advocates and defense attorneys are demanding reform, and some lawmakers are pushing their colleagues to pass legislation that will stop the rampant highway robbery by police in SC.

Asset Forfeiture in South Carolina

Police in South Carolina can take a person's cash or other possessions even if the person is not accused of wrongdoing.

It is called a civil asset forfeiture. When it happens, you have the burden of proving that your money is legitimate.

Statewide, drug-related forfeitures bring in millions of dollars each year, most of which goes into the budgets of local law enforcement agencies and solicitor's offices. A lack of oversight makes it difficult to know exactly how much money is involved, how it is spent, or how often police abuse the forfeiture laws.

The Police Stole My Money, Can I Get It Back?

If the property is "contraband per se," it is clearly illegal and will not be returned. Contraband per se would include drugs or counterfeit goods, items you have no legal right to possess.

If the property is "derivative contraband," it is legal in and of itself but was seized because police claim it was used in or obtained by illegal activity. This could include money made by selling drugs, property used in manufacturing drugs or vehicles used to traffic drugs.

However, police often take property that was not used in any criminal activity or obtained illegally.

Police know that, if they are seizing only a small amount of cash, most attorneys will not take your case because there is not enough money to justify paying attorney fees. Police are also banking on you not wanting to expose yourself to scrutiny by filing a lawsuit to get your money back or by fighting the lawsuit they file to keep your money.

You can choose to fight the forfeiture by:

1) Filing an answer to the State's forfeiture complaint within 30 days after you received it; or

2) Filing your own lawsuit for conversion (theft) if the State has not filed suit within a reasonable amount of time.

What is a Forfeiture Complaint and How Do I Fight It?

If your property has been seized by police, they are supposed to file a lawsuit (a complaint) asking the Court to give them the funds, and they are supposed to file it within "a reasonable time."

If they do not file the lawsuit, you can then file a lawsuit against them asking the Court to return the funds. Either way, your first step is to contact an experienced SC asset forfeiture attorney to help you.

The State must prove that there is probable cause that the money (or vehicle or other property) was connected to illegal drug transactions - meaning that the money was either:

1. Located in close proximity to drugs; or

2. Was intended to be used for or was proceeds from the purchase of drugs.

Once they have established probable cause, the burden then shifts to you to prove that you received the money from a legitimate source, which can be done with receipts, bank records, or other testimony.

Sometimes the police will seize a car or other vehicle that does not belong to the person driving - if you are an "innocent owner" who did not know that your car was being used for drug transactions, this is also a reason for the Court to return your property to you.

Asset Forfeiture Lawyers in Myrtle Beach SC

Whether the police took your money on the side of the road or seized your car because a relative or friend was arrested with drugs, we may be able to help you recover your property.

Schedule a free consultation with a Myrtle Beach asset forfeiture lawyer on the Axelrod team. Call us now at (843) 916-9300 or fill out our contact form today.

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