Civil forfeiture is a legal fiction that allows the government to take action against inanimate objects regardless of whether the owner is charged with a crime. [1] Forfeiture traces its roots to Roman and medieval English law, but originated in Biblical and pre-Judeo-Christian practices. [2] At common law, an object that caused the death of a King’s subject, even if accidentally, was forfeited to the Crown as a deodand. [3] The value of the object was then used for charitable purposes or to pay for masses for the dead man’s soul. [4] Over time, Courts began using forfeiture to obtain jurisdiction over property when violators of maritime law were overseas and could not be prosecuted. [5] Today, all States allow for forfeiture and there are over four hundred federal forfeiture statutes. [6] Randall Shepard, Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court, has noted: “An important feature of many of these statutes is characterization of the process as civil forfeiture under which (by contrast to criminal forfeiture) a property owner need not be found guilty of a crime—or even charged—to lose permanently their cash, car, home or other property. The relative ease of effecting such forfeiture and the disposition of the assets have become a matter of public note.” [7]

Due to recent changes in Indiana law, it is becoming much more difficult for the government to take your property under forfeiture statutes.  I recently handled a Federal Class Action lawsuit to the Indiana forfeiture law.  I was successful in getting the Federal Judge to agree with our argument and the Federal Court recently found the Indiana forfeiture statute unconstitutional and ordered Indianapolis to cease vehicle forfeitures.

If you have any questions about your case, please do not hesitate to contact me.  I look forward to hearing from you.

[1] Serrano v. State, 946 N.E.2d 1139, 1141 (Ind. 2011). [2] Id. and Calero v. Pearson Yacht Leasing Co., 416 U.S. 663, 681 (1974). [3] Calero, 416 U.S. at 681. [4] Id. [5]  Serrano, 946 N.E.2d at 1141. [6] Id. [7] Id.