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Federal government pushes for reform of civil forfeiture laws

There are a lot of laws in our state and across the nation that go mostly unnoticed by the majority of people. It isn't until we find ourselves up against these laws that we realize their gravity, oftentimes requiring us to seek the help of a skilled attorney in the process. One such law that fits this description is civil asset forfeiture and it's a law that has been creating legal headaches for California residents for years, possibly even decades.

As some of our more frequent readers may remember from an Oct. 10, 2013 post on civil asset forfeiture, this law allows law enforcement agencies to seize personal property -- including cash, cars and other property -- if police believe that they are in connection with a crime. Unfortunately, criminal charges don't even need to be issued in order for law enforcement to enforce this law, which has led to a number of legal disputes in our state's history.

But civil asset forfeiture isn't just a problem for California residents. Not only does some form of this law exist in other states, there is also a federal version of the law that allows the federal government to keep 20 percent of a seizure, returning 80 percent of it back to state and local governments. This is done through the Department of Justice's Equitable Sharing Program, which has been accused of abusing the law, especially in relation to drug crime cases.

Change could be just around the corner though, which may be a welcomed relief to any of our Pleasanton readers who have been negatively affected by civil asset forfeiture laws. According to several sources, including an article on drugpolicy.org, Attorney General Eric Holder issued an order that will prohibit the federal government from taking a portion of a seizure unless the case results in a conviction. By removing the incentive to enforce forfeiture laws, Attorney General Holder hopes to provide the much needed reform people have been asking for a number of years.

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