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In the U.S., many states adopted laws that allow law enforcement to appropriate property that is liquid or easily liquidated (in practice predominantly cash) not only in cases where past criminal activity has been found substantially likely by law enforcement and confiscation is done to initiate criminal prosecution, but even when (1) there would be no such prosecution (or if there was and a case was closed the confiscated property would not be returned) and even in cases where (2) there is only a suspicion of future criminal activity.

Is there any state in the Western world that allows for either one of the two or both situations?

Are there better arguments to this ploy in the U.S. today than the sovereign citizen-equivalent arguments that the property is the defendant (Haha!) and not a person so due process doesn’t apply?

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    upvote for the word "scheme"
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Nov 10, 2021 at 17:50
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    @IllusiveBrian Curent law says tht when property is "used in a crime" it is subject to forfieture. So if a person delivers drugs, a car may be forfiet. Worse yet, people who drive to red light districts ro solicit a prostitute have been hit with forfeiture of their vehicles. I think civil forfeiture as it now exists in the US is unjust and out of control, and violates some constitutional protections, but I am not a Justice nor a member of Congress. There is lots of pressure to keep it in place. Commented Nov 10, 2021 at 21:21
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    If you are saying that is what the law should be, you have a reasonable point. If you are saying that is what US law now is, I am fairly sure that you are incorrect. US law doesn't limit forfeiture to cash or things easily sold for cash. It does not limit forfeiture to thins that would be "prohibitive" that is where forfeiture would help prevent a future crime. Neither of those is relevant at all.If the property was "used in a crime" even incidentally, or acquired by crime, including purchased with the proceeds of crime, it is subject to forfeiture and no crime must be charged. [...] Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 3:47
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    [...] I hope to give an actual answer soon. Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 3:53
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    @DavidSiegel I agree the current policy is heinously unjust and unconstitutional, I'm just trying to explain the rationale behind the rule. In my opinion something like a car or possessions on someone's person, in their car, etc should not be subject to civil asset forfeiture, it should only apply where there's a clear inability of the state to know who a particular asset they seize belongs to. In the system I think it should move toward it would never apply to a properly registered car because there's a clear owner. Commented Nov 11, 2021 at 4:28

4 Answers 4

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Yes, in the Criminal Finances Act 2017 introduced 'Unexplained Wealth Orders', which compel the respondent to provide a statement:

  • (a) setting out the nature and extent of the respondent’s interest in the property in respect of which the order is made,
  • (b) explaining how the respondent obtained the property (including, in particular, how any costs incurred in obtaining it were met),
  • (c) where the property is held by the trustees of a settlement, setting out such details of the settlement as may be specified in the order, and
  • (d) setting out such other information in connection with the property as may be so specified.

There a few requirements set out in section 362B, for example, the property must have value of over £50,000; there should be "reasonable grounds" for suspicion that the respondent would have been unable to obtain the property using their lawfully obtained income; the respondent or their connections must have either been involved in serious or organised crime, or be a politically exposed person, and so on.

If the respondent refuses to make such a statement, the police may apply for a Civil Recovery Order to confiscate the property, with the property in question "presumed to be recoverable property" (section 362C(2)). Giving false information in such a statement is a criminal offence.

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British Columbia has a civil forfeiture regime governed by the Civil Forfeiture Act.

It establishes an office called the "director" of civil forfeiture. The director can apply to the court for orders forfeiting to the government property that was the proceeds of or the instrument of unlawful activity.

Findings are "to be made on the balance of probabilities."

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Yes

The Commonwealth and all states and territories have Proceeds of Crime legislation. Under these acts, the government can confiscate:

benefits derived from breaking the law,

money made from writing or having film or television shows made about how you broke the law,

unexplained wealth that you can’t prove was obtained legally,

as a punishment.

Further there is a Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and the Commonwealth’s law was enacted to actuate Australia’s obligations under that Convention and other treaties.

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  • Is this really a yes and not a “no”
    – kisspuska
    Commented Nov 10, 2021 at 21:02
  • The prerequisites in these jurisdictions if as described, dont seem outrageous or even seem reasonable. The issue in the question is such appropriation on the suspicion of future crime without a bar of at least the preponderance of the evidence or rather higher given the cop is not a judge nor would he conduct a full adversarial proceeding on the street, and their decision on provisionally lying on the premise a crime would be committed can very well be in complete disproportion, and if (when) exploited can be used to weaponize the fists of the executive branch against political adversaries
    – kisspuska
    Commented Nov 10, 2021 at 22:06
  • [...] and members of protected social groups.
    – kisspuska
    Commented Nov 10, 2021 at 22:06
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There are states where money can be seized simply because the owner gives no plausible explanation of the source, with no requirement for the prosecution to show any connection between the money and a crime, e.g. Italy. AFAIK the prosecution still has to show an organized crime connection, but they do not have to suggest any connection between the money and the crime, as long as the money is disproportionate to the legal economic activity of the owner.

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    Interesting you specifically bring up Italy; I remember when Mario Balotelli was pulled over with ca. €100,000 or maybe even half a mill in his trunk, and the cops asked why he has so much money on him, and he said because he can. And, of course, they didn’t confiscated his legally earned money. This does not contradict what you described by any means, it was just a fun fact I actually happened to have think of as a perfect counter example I had in mind drafting this question. That even in such flagrantly excessive amounts of explanations did not trigger similar action in the Italy in the EU.
    – kisspuska
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 3:24
  • Interestingly enough, it could still happen although probably still not as outrageously as in some U.S. examples.
    – kisspuska
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 3:25
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    @kisspuska, if that had gone to court he could have pointed to legitimate earnings which presumably make 100 grand look like small change. That's what the law was about.
    – o.m.
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 5:15
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    Sorry, I just looked the story up as a reminder for myself (it was a good ten years ago) he only had — literally change in a top class player like him — change: 5,000 and pound sterlings it appears. (He also said, "Because I'm rich!" lol Love the guy)
    – kisspuska
    Commented Nov 12, 2021 at 5:19

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