In a unanimous choice this month, the Supreme Court restricted the scope of civil asset forfeiture, the controversial legal method whereby law enforcement officers can seize home they suspect was involved in illegal activities. In this post, we will go over how the current choice in Timbs v. Indiana impacts a extended-time cannabis market boogeyman.

Civil asset forfeiture is one thing of a legal oddity – the government brings a civil action against the home itself, top to such fascinating case names as United States v. Report Consisting of 50,000 Cardboard Boxes A lot more or Much less, Every single Containing One particular Pair of Clacker Balls, 413 F. Supp. 1281 (D. Wisc. 1976). The “civil” aspect of the action implies that the government’s burden of proof is substantially reduce than in a criminal action, such that assets can be legally forfeited even in the absence of a criminal conviction.

Forfeited assets generally get sold, auctioned or destroyed with net proceeds retained by the seizing authority. With the advent of the War on Drugs in the 1980s, adjustments to federal law permitted regional law enforcement to take a reduce of seized drug trafficking assets. When the principal that criminals shouldn’t be permitted to maintain the fruits of their crimes is typically defensible, current years have brought elevated consideration to the practice and allegations of abuse by law enforcement.

Civil asset forfeiture (CAF) casts a shadow more than cannabis enterprises. The practice areas not only money proceeds at threat, but also any home “used to commit, or to facilitate the commission” of a crime. This might involve leased genuine home and cars, even if the owner of the home in query was not involved in the commission of the underlying crime. Notable targets involve the landlord of Oakland’s Harborside dispensary, who in the end prevailed following many years of litigation.

The concern regarded as by the Supreme Court in Timbs is no matter if there are limitations to the quantity of assets that a state is permitted to seize. Timbs sold a modest quantity of heroin to an undercover cop. He was charged and convicted, and his crimes carried a monetary fine of up to $10,000. The state of Indiana brought a civil action to seize Timbs’ Variety Rover, which he’d utilised to transport drugs, but which had been bought with almost $50,000 in genuine funds from an inheritance. Almost 30 years ago, the Supreme Court held that the magnitude of federal civil asset seizures are restricted by the 8th Amendment’s restrictions on excessive fines. In Timbs, the Supreme Court held that these restrictions also apply to states.

So what’s changed post-Timbs? Most likely, not a great deal. The Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed that the practice of civil asset forfeiture is constitutional. Timbs merely implies that the quantity of the seizure can not be unreasonably big compared to the underlying crime. The Timbs ruling might not be a great deal support, say, to the owners of a truck carrying hemp that was not too long ago seized in Idaho. Beneath Idaho law, “trafficking in marijuana” carries a maximum fine of $50,000. This leaves a lot of leeway for Idaho authorities to constitutionally seize home utilised to facilitate what Idaho contends to be a crime.

Absent statutory reforms of asset forfeiture laws or the decriminalization of cannabis, asset forfeiture will continue to be a threat for cannabis enterprise operators. Our attorneys on a regular basis advise consumers on forfeiture dangers and support them create methods to lessen it. Our Cannabis and Investigations, Compliance & White Collar teams can help if you or a person you know has home at threat.

Benjamin Pirie