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SC Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Forfeiture

SC Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Forfeiture

The South Carolina Supreme Court has ruled in favor of forfeiture laws that allow police to permanently confiscate property without pressing charges. Keep reading for more information.

What Is Forfeiture?

Forfeiture is the loss of a right, privilege, or property without remuneration as a punishment for breaking the law. Failure to perform a contractual obligation or neglecting a legal duty may also result in forfeiture of money or property. In many cases, police may seize property that may be suspected as stolen or important evidence in a case. At the federal level, forfeiture is not permanent and is intended as a punishment for a criminal charge.

SC Forfeiture Laws

The recent decision from the SC Supreme Court has upheld the state’s civil forfeiture laws which grant police the right to permanently confiscate cash and other assets or property without filing criminal charges. A lower court ruling had declared the rule unconstitutional as it jeopardizes constitutional property rights, specifically the Fourth Amendment.

According to the U.S. Constitution:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause […] the persons or things to be seized.”

The forfeiture laws have raised questions about property rights and have led to official inquiries into the legality of forfeiture by police departments. According to research data, over 40% of all forfeiture cases involved people never convicted of a crime.

There are also questions pertaining to incentives for police who confiscate property. Once an asset is seized, the agency keeps $1,000 and 75% of the remaining amount. On average, prosecutors receive 20% of the value while general funds only revive a mere 5%. Since 2009, SC law enforcement has gained over $97 million in forfeiture revenue.

Defense of Property

Because the state Supreme Court has upheld the law, it is difficult to get seized property back even if a person is not convicted of a crime. Instead, it is crucial that anyone accused of a crime retain the help of an attorney as soon as possible.

An attorney can help protect property from police early on and defend the rights of the accused in court. While the state Supreme Court upholds legal permanent forfeiture, the U.S. Constitution is strictly against it.

If you are facing seizure of property contact the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC.


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