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How Asset Forfeiture Works

Stopped By Police
A state trooper, sheriff's deputy or police officer stops a car for speeding or other violation.

Police Find Drugs or Cash
Based on suspicious items or behavior, the officer asks permission to search. Officer finds drugs and/or large amount of cash.

Officer Seizes Car and Cash
The driver denies knowledge of or (in the officer's judgment) doesn't adequately explain the cash's origins. Officer seizes the cash and the car.

Car is Sold at Auction
The police agency files forfeiture papers with the local, state or federal government. If the motorist claims the car and cash were gained legitimately, he or she must demonstrate as much by a "preponderance of the evidence." Seizing jurisdiction wins forfeiture trial or the seizure is uncontested. Forfeiture approved. The city, county or state sells the car at auction.

Cash Goes Back to Police Agency
It sends the seized cash to the federal, state or local government. The latter government may keep some for administrative purposes and sends the rest (typically 80%) back to the police agency. The police agency spends the proceeds -- usually on equipment for drug-fighting efforts.

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