Seizure and Forfeiture of Contraband

Seizure and forfeiture of contraband in Texas is governed by Chapter 59 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

Under Texas law, contraband is defined as (1) any property that is used or intended to be used in the commission of certain crimes; (2) the proceeds gained from the commission of certain crimes; (3) any property that is acquired with the proceeds of certain crimes; and (4) any property used to facilitate or intended to be used to facilitate the commission of certain crimes. Generally speaking, money laundering and drug trafficking crimes trigger the seizure and forfeiture laws of Texas.

Although provided for in the Code of Criminal Procedure, a forfeiture action is actually civil in nature. All parties must comply with the rules of pleadings as required in civil suits. Forfeiture cases proceed to trial in the same manner as other civil cases. And the State has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the property is subject to forfeiture. Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 59.05(a),(b).

In The State of Texas v. $30,660, 136 S.W.3d 392 (Tex.App.—Corpus Christi 2004, pet. denied) the Thirteenth Court of Appeals stated:

To succeed in a forfeiture action, the State must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the property is subject to forfeiture. The State does this by establishing that the property is contraband as defined by [CCP] art. 59.01(2). Although ch. 59 specifies no additional evidentiary requirements for forfeiture beyond proof that the property is contraband, the supreme court has held that the State must also show probable cause for seizing a person’s property…. Probable cause in the context of forfeiture statutes is a reasonable belief that a substantial connection exists between the property to be forfeited and the criminal activity defined by the statute. Thus probable cause to seize is not the same as the probable cause necessary for the lawful search, lawful arrest, or lawful search incident to arrest required by [CCP] art. 59.03(b)(4).

State at 407-408

If the State of Texas is able to prove that the seized property is contraband, it will be forfeited to the State.