Did you know that your property can be seized simply because you have been accused of a certain crime? You don't even have to be convicted. When police decide your money or property is connected to criminal activity, they can seize it in what is called a civil forfeiture proceeding.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case that could have an important impact on Iowa law. At issue is whether police need a warrant before drawing the blood of an unconscious suspect in order to determine his level of intoxication.
For the purposes of the federal Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), burglary is considered a violent felony. When someone has two or more violent felony convictions, whether state or federal crimes, they may encounter the ACCA if they are then convicted federally of unlawful firearms possession. Such a conviction carries a mandatory 15-year prison sentence.
The use of civil forfeitures has been called "policing for profit." The civil forfeiture process usually begins when someone is charged with a crime, either at the state or federal level. At that point, police and prosecutors may find that some of the defendant's money or property is connected to criminal activity. In essence, the prosecutor charges these valuables with being connected to or the proceeds of crime. The defendant bears the burden of proving that they were not. If the defendant fails to prove that, the police and prosecutor's office get to seize the money and property permanently -- even if the defendant has not yet been convicted of any crime.
When prosecutors and defense attorneys choose jurors from a pool, they are allowed to reject some jurors, either for good cause or in what is called a "preemptory challenge." Jurors can be removed for cause, for example, when they are unqualified to serve, have a conflict of interest, or admit that they cannot put aside their biases. Each side gets a limited number of preemptory challenges that can be used to strike jurors without a specific cause.
"This empowerment of local law enforcement to determine the substance of Fourth Amendment protections in the context of warrantless inventory searches and seizures of automobiles is rich with irony," Justice Brent R. Appel of the Iowa Supreme Court wrote recently, "as the Fourth Amendment was explicitly designed as a bulwark to restrain law enforcement in the context of searches and seizures."