HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Controversial Law Used To Seize Property
Pubdate: Thu, 20 Mar 2008
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2008 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Dana Borcea, With files from Rachel DeLazzer
Bookmark: (Asset Forfeiture)


Hamilton police and the province have again used a relatively 
untested piece of legislation to seize property connected to alleged 
drug activity in Hamilton.

This time, the controversial Civil Remedies Act has netted the 
province around $650,000 in property and cash linked to a marijuana 
grow operation busted more than three years ago.

The chain of events that led to the seizures started with a search 
warrant executed at a Stoney Creek home on Dec. 1, 2004, for theft of hydro.

Police seized 291 marijuana plants at the Mistywood Drive house and 
arrested a couple. According to court documents, their three children 
were taken into the custody of children's aid.

Police then obtained a proceeds-of-crime search warrant for an 
Ancaster residence linked to the pair.

In addition to the two homes, valued at $600,000, police also seized 
close to $30,000 in cash and bank drafts from a safety deposit box 
owned by the couple.

After criminal charges against one of the two were withdrawn, the 
proceeds-of-crime investigation was threatened. This prompted police 
to turn to the Civil Remedies Act, which focuses on property rather 
than the individual.

The legislation allows the province to confiscate property used in 
crime or obtained from the proceeds of crime without any criminal 
charges or convictions.

On Feb. 14, the Ontario Superior Court issued a forfeiture order 
after finding the properties and assets of the couple to be proceeds 
and instruments of criminal activity.

Vice and drug Detective Bob Gauvin blamed the three-year delay on the 
property owners' lawyer "challenging the proceedings throughout."

"It was a hard-fought battle," said Gauvin.

The province used the law in 2006 to seize the downtown Sandbar 
Tavern. The law also was used to seize the owners' home.
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Civil Remedies Act

Ontario's Civil Remedies Act allows the attorney general to ask a 
civil court for an order to freeze and take possession of any 
property that is a proceed or instrument of unlawful activity.

Properties can include assets such as real estate, cars and cash.

The legislation focuses on the connection between property and 
unlawful activity. It does not require criminal charges or convictions.

Forfeited funds are deposited into an account to be redistributed to 
victims of crime.

Critics of the 2001 legislation have said the act's definition of 
criminal activity is too broad and potentially threatens constitutional rights.
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