Indiana’s Civil Forfeiture Laws Being Challenged

Indiana's Civil Forfeiture Laws Being Challenged
We all make mistakes in life, and it’s how we learn from them that largely determines our character and future. Criminal defense attorney Jeff Cardella works with clients every day who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law. While it’s important they receive fair punishment, Cardella feels that civil forfeiture is taking things too far.

Recently his client, Leroy Wilson, was charged with resisting arrest, dealing marijuana, and obstruction of justice. In addition to jail time and other penalties, law enforcement seized his vehicle. There is a law protecting this action, and Cardella and his client are challenging it with the argument that it’s a violation of the constitutional right to due process when this occurs.

The complaint states that the law currently “allows the executive branch to seize and hold the vehicle of an owner for several months without affording the owner the right to a postseizure preforfeiture hearing to challenge the seizure.”

The motivation for the lawsuit is not a monetary one. The defendant in this case simply wants his vehicle back, and Cardella truly feels the current laws are wrong and violate the rights of his client and so many others across the country. While the suit is currently limited to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, which seized around $48,022 in personal property in 2014 alone, the outcome could set a precedent for the rest of the country.

Across the country, there are nearly 400 statutes regulating federal forfeiture, and every state in the nation allows for forfeiture to take place. While there are arguments being made to defend civil forfeiture, Cardella and his client hope to at least make changes to the time allowed to hold seized property.

In Indiana, a vehicle can legally be held for up to six months by the executive branch. However, this time can be further extended when a forfeiture claim against said vehicle is filed within 180 days. While proponents of current laws argue that it’s only “drug dealers and the like” who are impacted, Cardella feels nobody deserves to be subjected to such treatment.