Wegman Attorney Files Amicus Brief in South Carolina Supreme Court Seeking to Strike Forfeiture Statute

Wednesday October 28, 2020 Published in Litigation

Jay Carson, in support of Wegman client, The Buckeye Institute, filed an amicus brief in the South Carolina Supreme Court urging that Court to affirm a lower court decision holding South Carolina’s civil forfeiture statute unconstitutional. “Civil forfeiture” is a process by which law enforcement agencies can seize property from citizens based on the mere suspicion of criminal activity. Unlike criminal cases, where the state bears the burden of proof and defendants have a right to have counsel provided for them, in a civil forfeiture case, citizens seeking the return of their property carry the burden of proof and must hire their own lawyer. In most cases, it is simply too expensive for citizens to fight civil forfeitures.

Some states, like South Carolina compound that injustice by allowing law enforcement agencies to keep nearly 100% of the value of the seized property. This, Carson argues, creates a perverse incentive for law enforcement to focus its efforts on generating revenue through forfeitures rather than on public safety. Empirical economic studies over the past three decades show that not only do the financial incentives of civil forfeiture skew law enforcement priorities, but that civil forfeiture disproportionality burdens the poor and minorities. The brief argues that, as the lower South Carolina court held, these incentives violate the Due Process Clause and are thus unconstitutional.

This not the first time The Buckeye Institute has been involved in issues of civil forfeiture. In 2016 it successfully led the charge to reform Ohio’s civil asset forfeiture laws which has impacted thousands of lives in Ohio!

The Buckeye Institute is a public policy think tank that advocates for free market policy solutions and against government overreach and frequently files amicus briefs relating to significant constitutional issues.


Wegman Hessler specializes in business law for business leaders, applying legal discipline to solve business problems to help business owners run smarter. For more than 50 years, this Cleveland business law firm provides full-service strategic legal counsel for closely held businesses. Learn more at www.wegmanlaw.com.

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