Asset forfeiture defense attorney Steve Jumes explains the burden of proof in Asset Forfeiture cases:
In the United States of America, you are presumed innocent, and even in asset forfeiture, it is supposedly the government’s obligation and duty to prove that any property is connected to crime, but courts have allowed so much circumstantial evidence that it really has become “you’re guilty until proven innocent.” To take another example, if my hundred thousand dollars is taken, and I say I was traveling down the road going to … Not down the road, to another state, and I’m going to buy a house, and they don’t believe me, then the case goes to court.
Well, in court, what they’re going to say is, “Well, Mr. Jumes gave fishy answers, the money was bundled consistent with how a drug dealer bundles the money, and we had a dog circle his car and bark,” okay? That right there would easily be sustained as sufficient evidence for the government to keep the money, so in effect, I have to prove that the money is clean. I need to find the houses I was going to be looking for, whatever real estate agent I was going to use when I got there, I may want to show certain itinerary records that I’m going to that location. I’m under the gun to prove that it wasn’t nefarious.
You need to understand, when we talk about these canine hits or this other circumstantial evidence, a lot of innocent people carry money that has, somewhere down the road, been exposed to some sort of odor of narcotics. A lot of innocent people don’t like to use banks, and they like to carry large sums of money. The government doesn’t have to disprove my honest explanation; they just have to give circumstances that seem suspicious, and that can carry the day.