Glenn R. Bruno, Esq.
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Working Hard to Protect Your Rights As a Poughkeepsie criminal defense attorney, I have been serving the people of the Hudson Valley for more than 20 years through diligent, assertive and quality criminal defense. I am prepared to put my experience to work for you.

A little known law that can cause legal issues for New Yorkers

Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. It's a phrase we've all heard before and a presumption in the law that many consider to be the most important element of our criminal justice system. But did you know that this presumption does not apply in all criminal cases? If you didn't know this, you're not alone. In fact, many New Yorkers may be completely unaware of one particular law that forces people into challenging legal situations.

We're talking about civil asset forfeiture laws, which allow police to seize property believed to be related to criminal activity. But as anyone who has dealt with these laws knows, it can be incredibly difficult to get seized property back, even in cases where a person is found innocent.

Some of our Poughkeepsie readers may have heard this aspect of the law talked about on John Oliver's show "Last Week Tonight." But while the comedian seems to poke fun at the absurdity of the law in his episode, he stresses the seriousness of continued use of civil asset forfeiture laws and the unnecessary burden it puts on innocent individuals.

That's because, as you may not know, civil asset forfeiture asserts that "your property is guilty until you prove it innocent," which can lead to challenging court cases the average person may not be equipped to handle without the help of a skilled and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.

Thankfully, it's not just Oliver who recognizes the problem with civil asset forfeiture. At the beginning of this year, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced that the federal government would no longer accept proceeds from the sale of assets seized because of civil forfeiture unless the owner was convicted of a crime. In March, New Mexico's legislature even voted to end civil forfeiture practices in their state.

Will New York be next? Only time will tell. But if many of our readers had their way, the hope is probably that the state remedies this issue sooner rather than later.

Sources: Drugpolicy.org, "Attorney General Holder Ends Incentive for Law Enforcement to Seize Property," Press Release, Jan. 16, 2015

The New York Times, "Bill to End Civil Forfeiture in New Mexico Awaits Move by Governor Martinez," Shaila Dewan, April 9, 2015

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