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Understanding asset forfeiture laws in North Carolina

On Behalf of | Aug 12, 2021 | criminal law

Asset forfeiture is when law enforcement takes property from someone as part of an investigation, typically because property is implicated as part of a crime or suspected crime. In some states, there are few limitations to asset forfeiture. However, North Carolina is one of several states that have chosen to reform forfeiture laws, thereby giving people in the state certain rights that those in other states may not have. It is a good idea for individuals in North Carolina to be aware of what is and is not permitted in the state when it comes to asset forfeiture, especially if they are accused of a crime. 

Civil forfeiture is not permitted in North Carolina  

Along with a few other states, including New Mexico and Nebraska, North Carolina has done away with civil forfeiture altogether. This means that police can only seize property under criminal forfeiture. In other words, an individual must be convicted of a crime in order for a forfeiture to be permitted. The judge and jury in the case are responsible for determining whether the property is, in fact, directly related to the crime and should be seized as a result. 

Federal agencies may provide a loophole for local law enforcement 

While North Carolina laws are much stricter than those in other states, there is a way that law enforcement can seize property under the law. Local law enforcement and federal agencies are permitted to form a partnership, which allows them to take advantage of looser federal restrictions. The proceeds from their seizures are split between the federal agency and local agency. North Carolina requires these proceeds to go to education, so that police services do not directly benefit from the asset forfeiture. 

How can someone protect their rights during a criminal investigation and proceedings? 

Everyone has rights when they are under investigation, and there are laws in place to protect those rights. It is a good idea to have an understanding of criminal defense issues and rights to know if they are being violated. Having a North Carolina criminal defense lawyer is also highly important to protect the interests of someone arrested for a crime in the state.