Lately you’ve probably heard a lot in the news about the Civil Forfeiture Act and how the Province is now regularly applying to seize the houses of persons found growing marijuana illegally. While the seizure of someone’s property would seem to be punitive, technically the Civil Forfeiture regime is not considered to be an area of criminal law and therefore is different and independent from a prosecution by the Courts. What that means is that even if you aren’t actually charged, or if charges are dropped, the Province can still apply to take your house under the Civil Forfeiture Act. Seems sort of unfair, right? Well the Courts don’t think so and as long as the law is there, it will continue to be used.
We represent a number of clients who are subject to this regime and whom we’ve been fighting for to help them keep their houses. Last week we had a case where the Director of Civil Forfeiture was attempting to seize our client’s house despite the fact that he had already had a trial on the merits in the criminal sphere and was acquitted by the Judge after He found a large number of Charter infringements and ruled all of the drug evidence was inadmissible. No surprise – the police were not happy about the acquittal so they referred the matter for Civil Forfeiture. We argued that it would be clearly contrary to the interests of justice to allow the Director to use the drugs for a Civil trial after another Judge had already ruled the evidence inadmissible for the criminal sphere. Before getting an official ruling from the Judge on the matter, the Director decided to abandon its case.
If you are dealing with similar issues and your house is subject to seizure by the Director of Civil Forfeiture, give us a call.