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AG Holder announces change to US asset forfeiture program

Under federal law, authorities are allowed to seize a person's assets if they can show that those assets are in some way connected to a crime. The most frustrating aspect of asset forfeiture is that authorities can take your property even if you are not facing criminal charges.

In recent years, asset seizure under these laws has grown increasingly common. Yesterday, however, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the rules have changed.

The new rules will affect people who have been accused of structuring their bank deposits. Structuring is when a person makes a series of transactions that fall just short of the limit at which the bank would be required to notify the authorities of a suspicious transaction.

Previously, evidence of structuring was enough to support seizing those funds. Under the new federal rules, however, it will not be. Instead, prosecutors will have to either show probable cause that the money is linked to a federal offense or show proof that the money came from illegal transactions.

As you can tell, the new rules make things more difficult for prosecutors and better for anyone who may be the target of asset forfeiture. So, why the change? 

Many people say that taking someone's property without sufficiently proving that they are involved in criminal activity is unconstitutional. Of course, this change will not end unfair asset forfeiture completely. If you ever become the victim of asset forfeiture, it may be wise to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights and seek to have your assets returned.

Source: CNN, "New AG policy on asset forfeiture in structuring offenses," Evan Perez, March 31, 2015

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