Orders for forfeiture
As well as the power to fine and imprison, courts have the power under the Criminal Assets Confiscation Act 2005 (SA) to order the forfeiture of articles involved in the offences (for example, drugs or pipes), property acquired for the purpose of committing the offence (for example, land to grow cannabis commercially, equipment to irrigate, trucks to transport) or the proceeds or profits from the offence. If a serious drug offence has occurred (such as trade), or a person has become a prescribed drug offender, then any tainted property may be forfeited or restrained.
Assets may be forfeited if acquired with proceeds of offence
Assets may also be taken if they have been acquired from the proceeds of an offence. Where it is not possible to tell the extent of the contribution from the proceeds of offences, the whole of the tainted property can be forfeited. Where an innocent person has an interest in the same property the court may order that the person be compensated. Property (such as the family home or car) might not be forfeited if it would cause disproportionate hardship to innocent people. The court might also allow access to restrained funds for payment of reasonable legal costs.
Power to freeze assets
Even before a person is convicted of an offence, courts have the power to prevent any disposal or dealing in the property which is reasonably suspected of being liable to forfeiture, until the question of forfeiture is decided (a restraining order) [Criminal Assets Confiscation Act 2005 (SA) s 24].
Disposing of property the subject of an order a further offence
Any attempt to then dispose of the property is an offence which is punishable by a maximum fine of $20 000 or imprisonment for four years [Criminal Assets Confiscation Act 2005 (SA) s 33].
Prescribed drug offenders
The court has specific powers to seek forfeiture and restraining orders for all property of prescribed drug offenders, regardless of whether that property was acquired through the proceeds of an offence. A prescribed drug offender is a person who has been convicted of a serious drug offence (such as trafficking or manufacturing a commercial quantity of a controlled drug) where they have at least two other previous convictions for prescribed drug offences in the previous ten years [see Criminal Assets Confiscation Act 2005 (SA) s 6A].
Immediately on a person becoming a prescribed drug offender (i.e. upon conviction), a forfeiture order will be taken to have been made by the convicting court [see s 56A(1)]. This is referred to as a deemed forfeiture order. Upon conviction, all property owned by a prescribed drug offender will then be forfeited to the Crown, aside from protected or excluded property [see s 56A(2)]. This means that a prescribed drug offender's property does not have to be acquired through the proceeds of an offence to be forfeited or restrained [see definition of tainted property in section 3].
The court can order that certain property be excluded from a forfeiture order, in circumstances where, for example, the prescribed drug offender has cooperated with a law enforcement agency, or where it would be contrary to the financial interests of the Crown to have the property forfeited [see ss 59A and 59B].
Justice Rehabilitation Fund
The proceeds of any confiscated assets forfeited to the Crown upon the conviction of a prescribed drug offender will be paid into the Justice Rehabilitation Fund. This Fund sits separately from the Victims of Crime Fund and enables the Attorney-General to fund programs and facilities for the benefit of offenders, victims and other persons, that will further crime prevention and rehabilitation strategies [see s 209A(5)]. In addition to any proceeds garnished from prescribed drug offenders, Parliament or the Attorney-General can also allow for additional funds to be paid into the Justice Rehabilitation Fund [see s 209A(3)].
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