UNDERSTANDING IOWA’S CIVIL FORFEITURE LAWS
Civil forfeiture is the process of police seizing property that is suspected of being involved in criminal activity. An example of civil forfeiture is when a vehicle is pulled over and police find an illegal drug in the vehicle. If police suspect drug trafficking, they can seize the vehicle and any cash found in the vehicle. Civil forfeiture can include money, whether cash or bank accounts, vehicles, and sometimes even homes. Iowa has some of the harshest civil forfeiture law in the nation. If money seized from law enforcement is over $5,000.00, there is no conviction of a criminal offense required to keep the money.
Even when a person who had nothing to do with the underlying criminal matter, they bear the burden of proving they had no knowledge of, or involvement in, the alleged illegal use of their property. Aggravating the situation, Iowa law enforcement agencies retain 100 percent of all proceeds from forfeited property and thus enjoy a strong incentive to seize property whenever possible.