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Civil Asset Forfeiture

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Civil Asset Forfeiture in Ohio

In Ohio civil forfeiture proceeding, the prosecutor initiates a civil action to obtain the forfeiture of property that was involved in criminal activity.

The prosecutor is required to prove by “clear and convincing” evidence that the property at issue is subject to forfeiture under R.C. 2981.02 because the property meets the definition of contraband, proceeds, or an instrumentality. R.C. 2981.05(H).

The person from whom the property was seized might not ever be charged with a crime. As explained in  “‘[I]t is immaterial to civil forfeiture proceedings whether the defendant is also charged or convicted of an underlying criminal offense.'” In re $75,000.00 U.S. Currency, 2017-Ohio-9158, 101 N.E.3d 1209, ¶ 53 (8th Dist.), quoting Marmet Drug Task Force v. Paz, 3d Dist. Marion No. 9-11-60, 2012-Ohio-4882, ¶ 23, citing R.C. 2981.01(B)(10).

Ohio’s forfeiture statutes provide procedures for “a person with an interest in the property subject to forfeiture” to petition for the release of the property at various times during the civil forfeiture proceedings. See R.C. 2981.05(C) and R.C. 2981.03.

The prosecutor is required to attempt to identify “any person with an interest in the property subject to forfeiture” before or upon filing the civil action and to serve such individuals with notice of the action and the complaint. R.C. 2981.05(B). The prosecutor must also publish a notice of the action as provided by statute. R.C. 2981.05(B).

In Ohio, forfeitures are not favored in law or in equity. State v. Lilliock, 70 Ohio St.2d 23, 25, 434 N.E.2d 723 (1982). The courts have found that the forfeiture statutes must be construed so as to avoid forfeiture of property. Id. at 26.

In fact, the Ohio Supreme Court has cautioned that forfeiture may not be ordered “unless the expression of the law is clear and the intent of the legislature manifest.” Id.; see Dayton v. Boddie, 19 Ohio App.3d 210, 19 Ohio B. 354, 484 N.E.2d 171 (2d Dist.1984).

Ohio law contemplates that the trial court “shall issue” a civil forfeiture order if the court determines that the prosecutor has met his burden under the statute and a finding is made, when required, that forfeiture is not disproportionate to the severity of the offense. Id.

Attorney for Civil Asset Forfeiture in Ohio

Brian Joslyn is an experienced civil asset forfeiture attorney in Columbus, OH. If your money or other valuable property was seized for forfeiture in the State of Ohio, then the attorneys at Joslyn Law Firm can help.

If a civil forfeiture petition is filed by a prosecutor with the State of Ohio, the attorneys at Joslyn Law Firm can help you file all responsive pleadings to challenge the forfeiture petition including a verified claim and answer to the State’s forfeiture petition.

Act quickly. If you miss a deadline, the trial court might grant a default judgment that awards your property to the state. Retain the services of a qualified attorney who can represent you in the underlying forfeiture proceedings and file an answer and other responsive pleadings on your behalf.

In Ohio, the seizures of U.S. Currency occur at the airport, as well as the Columbus Metropolitan Area’s bus service, the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), and on the roadways.

Call (614) 444-1900.


Civil Asset Forfeiture Proceedings in Ohio

Ohio’s forfeiture statutes provide that “[a] law enforcement officer may seize property that the officer has probable cause to believe is property subject to forfeiture.” R.C. 2981.03(A)(2).

Property subject to forfeiture includes “[p]roceeds derived from or acquired through the commission of an offense.” R.C. 2981.02(A)(1)(b). The definition of “offense” includes “any act or omission that could be charged as a criminal offense…” R.C. 2981.01(B)(10).

After the seizure of U.S. Currency or other property, the prosecutor may file a civil forfeiture action:

against any person who is alleged to have received, retained, possessed, or disposed of proceeds, in an amount exceeding fifteen thousand dollars, knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that the proceeds were allegedly derived from the commission of an offense subject to forfeiture proceedings in violation of section 2927.21 of the Revised Code.

R.C. 2981.05(D)(1).

All the offenses subject to forfeiture proceedings are listed in R.C. 2927.21, including the offenses of drug trafficking which is listed in R.C. 2927.21(A)(1)(h).

Read more about civil asset forfeiture proceedings involving the seizure of money at the airport in Cleveland, OH.


The Burden of Proof for Civil Asset Forfeiture in Ohio

The burden of proof required in civil forfeiture proceedings was changed by the Ohio General Assembly in 2016 when it amended R.C. 2981.05. The statute now provides:

[T]he state may file a civil forfeiture action, in the form of a civil action, against any person who is alleged to have received, retained, possessed, or disposed of proceeds, in an amount exceeding fifteen thousand dollars, knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that the proceeds were allegedly derived from the commission of an offense subject to forfeiture proceedings in violation of section 2927.21 of the Revised Code. * * *

The court shall issue a civil forfeiture order if it determines that the prosecutor has proved by clear and convincing evidence that the property is subject to forfeiture under section 2981.02 of the Revised Code, and, after a proportionality review under section 2981.09 of the Revised Code when relevant, the trier of fact specifically describes the extent of the property to be forfeited.

“The version of R.C. 2981.05 in effect prior to the passing of Sub. H.B. No. 347 required the prosecutor to show by a ‘preponderance of the evidence’ that the property at issue is subject to forfeiture under R.C. 2981.02.” In re Forfeiture of Prop. of Astin, 2018-Ohio-1723, P20, 111 N.E.3d 894, 900, 2018 Ohio App. LEXIS 1855, *9, 2018 WL 2084916.


Threshold of $15,000 for Civil Asset Forfeiture in Ohio

As of April 6, 2017, the current version of the civil asset forfeiture statute in Ohio, R.C. 2981.05, sets forth a $15,000 threshold for civil forfeiture actions against persons alleged to have received, retained, or possessed proceeds derived from a criminal offense.

For this reason, the state is now prevented from pursuing civil forfeiture against such persons in an amount less than $15,000.


This article was last updated on Tuesday, April 20, 2021.

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