California Health & Safety Code §11470(e) H&S
Forfeiture laws allow the State and Federal government to seize money and property that are the proceeds of or are used to facilitate illicit drug activity. Forfeiture proceedings are filed separately from criminal charges and the defendant is the money or property itself.
State and Federal governments can impose criminal punishment in addition to forfeiting the defendant’s property and money. There is no double jeopardy defense.
The Federal courts have held, however, that the value of the forfeited property cannot be disproportionate to the crime. In 1995, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said that, “If, for example, one marijuana plant were found growing on the ranch, forfeiture of all 825,000 acres would be excessive” (U.S. v. Real Property Located in El Dorado County, 9th Cir. 1995) [59 F. 3d 974].
California law does protect innocent owners in some cases (See below). Under California statutes, a criminal conviction is required for forfeitures under $25,000. However, the state police agencies often turn the property or money over to the Feds, where a criminal conviction is not required for forfeiture.
The California forfeiture statute [11470(e) H&S] allows forfeiture of the following:
- a) All controlled substances (marijuana)
- b) All money and equipment involved
- c) Any vehicle used, or intended to be used, in transportation of the marijuana (more than lo pounds dry weight)
Motor vehicle forfeitures can be prevented if an innocent spouse is co-owner, or has a community property interest, and the vehicle is used by the defendant’s immediate family.
Maintaining a Place (H&S 11166) and forfeitures: Homes and land (real property) are also subject to state forfeiture if the owner is convicted of maintaining the property for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, or possessing marijuana for sale. However, property that is used as a family residence or other lawful purpose, and is co-owned by an innocent person with no knowledge of the unlawful use, may not be subject to forfeiture.
The Law Offices of Bruce M. Margolin, Esq.