When a property is confiscated to do drug activity, what are a co-owners rights?

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When a property is confiscated to do drug activity, what are a co-owners rights?

The city took a piece of property and sold the property because one person was said to be involved with selling illegal substances. The other person, who is handicapped, got no money out of the sale. How could they sell the property before the person went to trial? And once the property was sold, why didn’t other person get their half?

Asked on November 9, 2010 under Criminal Law, Georgia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Usually, if propert is confiscated because it was used in the commission of crimes and/or was the fruit of crimes, it is confisacted in a special type of civil procedure called a quasi in rem proceeding. When that happens, the ownership interests of different people is in many ways irrelevant; for example, if drugs were being sold out of the home, it may be seized regardless of who owned it and the owners, other than the alleged drug dealer, typically have no recourse to the equity in it or proceeds of a sale. And because this is a civil proceeding, not a criminal punishment, it can happen before somene is convicted. It is a powerful remedy and one that many consider abusive, but it has been consistently upheld. The owner should contact a lawyer and try to see if there are grounds to get his property back, but he needs to be prepared that there might be no recourse. I interned at the U.S. Attorney's Office while in law school, and I saw them regularly seize cars and homes belonging to innocent 3rd parties simply because they were used in the commission of a crime; being innocent of the alleged crime did not help.


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