Doubles minimum cash amount to $1,000; notices must be issued in multiple languages; plus more requirements
By Scott Alonso, Public Information Officer, Office of the District Attorney, Contra Costa County
Martinez, Calif. – Today, Dec. 15, 2020, Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton formalized a new policy for civil asset forfeiture cases within the DA’s Office. In June 2019, DA Becton implemented an interim policy to address growing concerns with certain types of civil asset forfeiture cases. This interim policy is now permanent for the DA’s Office and applies to the entire county. Civil asset forfeiture cases are a civil procedure for law enforcement to seize cash and other property from suspects alleged to have ties to drug trafficking and drug sales.
The policy covers the following items:
- A new threshold for any case, the amount seized must total at minimum $1,000 for the DA’s Office to consider using the civil asset forfeiture process. Previously, under prior administrations, the amount seized could be as low as $500 for the office to initiate civil asset forfeiture proceedings.
- The seizing law enforcement agency must serve a Notice of Non-Judicial Forfeiture Proceedings and a Claim Opposing Forfeiture on any person who has, or may have, an interest in the seized property. Under this new policy and for the first-time, this notice is now required to be translated into multiple languages, including Spanish and Mandarin.
- A criminal case will accompany any civil asset forfeiture proceeding. This will align the DA’s Office charging standards to mirror all criminal cases. Some exceptions include:
- If the property is abandoned or not claimed, then our policy would not apply.
- Where the property subject to forfeiture is claimed by a third party who does not appear to own the property or have an interest in the property.
“The community rightfully has tremendous concerns about the use of the civil asset forfeiture process by law enforcement. I have listened to the concerns and instituted this new policy on a permanent basis. We must only use civil asset forfeiture when absolutely necessary and in conjunction with a criminal case,” Becton stated.