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Forfeiture: What Happens To Seized Property If You Are Convicted?

Many people are not aware that under the Criminal Activity Forfeiture Act, law enforcement can take property believed to be used in criminal activity. Seized property may include money, cars, weapons or some other type. Law enforcement officers may seize the property when executing a search warrant or at the time of arrest.

In every state, there are specific laws that govern whether seized property may be forfeited. In Missouri, the law protects innocent property owners and defendants found not guilty. The law also protects those persons arrested, but not charged. 

But if you are found guilty (or plead guilty) and your property is forfeited - where does it go? 

Missouri law requires that the state auditor release a report to account for the seized property. Last week, Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway released the annual report for 2016. You can read that full report here. According to the Missouri Times, in 2016, law enforcement seized an estimated $6.3 million worth of property.

Of the property seized in Missouri, a small percentage (8%) was returned to the owner, $2,745,658 was transferred to a federal agency and $97,067 was transferred to the state. The report indicates that about $2,588,046 is still pending due to unresolved criminal cases and forfeiture proceedings.

Under Missouri law, all forfeited property the state receives goes to fund schools and not law enforcement. 

Critics of the forfeiture laws in Missouri have argued that despite the reporting requirements, the actual result is not as much transparency about what or how much is forfeited. This is due to some agencies not reporting and the high amount of the "pending" forfeited property which isn't resolved until a later date. 

Forfeiture laws are complicated and just one of the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction that many people do not know about or consider. Protect yourself by making sure your attorney advises you on how forfeiture laws may impact your defense.

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