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Do You Have The Right To A Jury Trial In A Civil Asset Forfeiture Case? Contact Us
Indianapolis Criminal & OWI Lawyers > Blog > Civil Forfeiture > Do You Have The Right To A Jury Trial In A Civil Asset Forfeiture Case?

Do You Have The Right To A Jury Trial In A Civil Asset Forfeiture Case?


Most everyone will agree, “Crime shouldn’t pay.”  Civil Asset Forfeiture laws are purported to do just that, remove the profit from criminal activity. Unfortunately, widespread abuse of civil asset forfeiture laws by law enforcement has led seizures far beyond the profits of crime. Civil asset forfeiture makes it possible to seize property based on mere probable cause that it is connected to a crime.  The burden a trial is civil, a preponderance of the evidence, not beyond a reasonable doubt.  And while there are procedures in place for property owners to fight back, it can take several months–even years–for this process to run its course.  And in the State of Indiana, you do not have the right to trial by jury in a civil forfeiture case.

Doesn’t the Indiana Constitution Guarantee the right to a Jury Trial in civil cases?

Indeed, even when owners do fight back, they often find that certain basic assumptions regarding constitutional due process simply do not apply to civil asset forfeiture. While, Article 1, Section 20, clearly states, “In all civil cases, the right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate ”a recent decision from the Indiana Court of Appeals, State v. $2,435 in United States Currency, explains otherwise.

In this case, police in Fort Wayne seized $2,435 in cash recovered from the search of a vehicle, which they believed was connected to drug crimes committed by the driver. As required by Indiana law, the State of Indiana filed a civil asset forfeiture complaint in Allen Circuit Court. The defendant–the individual, not the currency–then filed a demand for a jury trial. The trial court initially denied this request but later reconsidered and found that under Article 1, Section 20, of the Indiana Constitution, the defendant was entitled to a jury trial. The state appealed.

In their ruling the Court of Appeals explained that “all civil cases” does not include civil asset forfeiture proceedings. The Supreme Court has interpreted that language only to include the right to a jury trial “only as it existed at common law” at the time of the Constitution’s adoption, June 18, 1852.

Speak with an Indianapolis Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney Today

While the law creates a number of roadblocks like this for property owners, it is still possible to get your property back following a civil asset forfeiture seizure. Your best chance for success in these cases is to work with a skilled Indianapolis civil asset forfeiture lawyer. Contact Rigney Law LLC today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our criminal law team.


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