Drug Forfeitures

Drug Forfeitures: Bona Fide Purchasers

Generally, the power of the government to reach property in the hands of third parties is tempered by protection for “bona fide purchasers” or “innocent owners”. States vary as to the degree of protection provided, depending on what type of knowledge, if any, the third party may have had that the property was associated with a drug crime. Some states use an objective standard of knowledge and they protect third parties who, given the circumstances, had no reason to suspect that the property was connected with illicit activity. Other states use a subjective standard and protect third parties with no actual knowledge that the property was tainted. The federal civil forfeiture law appears to require actual knowledge, and the federal courts generally apply that standard. Nevertheless, the U.S. Supreme Court has not specifically addressed this issue.