In a tiny part of West Oakland, near the Acorn housing project, drug-related violence has been increasing – according to local law enforcement officials. So, during the month of April 2013, Oakland police have put members of the Acorn gang in their sights. Within two weeks, more than 300 local officers and members of the FBI raided houses in the area, toting multiple search warrants, seizing firearms, and making arrests. What’s more than this is that Oakland police say that there are more arrests to come. Police Chief Howard Jordan insists that these actions are necessary for the safety of the community and that the Oakland PD’s working relationship with the FBI has produced the desired result – drug dealers are off the streets and gang-related activity is down in the area. In the last of this series of arrests, about $50,000 of heroin was seized, along with a little over $1,500 in cash.
What’s important to remember is that the government has the right to mercilessly seize the property and/or assets of American citizens and then attempt to permanently retain them. This is called asset forfeiture and can include any kind of property: boats, planes, bank accounts, cash, and other personal property. This, unfortunately, can leave unsuspecting individuals with little to no income or property and thus no ability to hire a lawyer or to defend themselves properly against criminal charges.
California law states that the forfeiture of such property and assets is legal only when there has been a conviction in a drug-related crime. Otherwise, the state has no right to seize or retain an individual citizen’s property. Yet, oftentimes, Californians are not aware of their property rights and allow the government to seize their assets and property without proper representation.