California Civil Forfeiture

United States v. 2601 West Ball Road, Anaheim, Calif., No. 12-CV-01345 AG-MLG (C.D. Cal. filed Aug. 21, 2012)
Federal & Local Law Enforcement Agencies Team Up to Profit by Subverting California State Law

Download the report: Inequitable Justice

No one in America should have their property taken from them by law enforcement officials without first being convicted of a crime.  And yet, Tony Jalali stood to lose his entire commercial building in Anaheim, California even though he was never charged with any wrongdoing.

In August, 2012, the federal government and the City of Anaheim teamed up to take Jalali’s building, representing his life savings, for renting space to two medical marijuana dispensaries that were entirely legal under California law.  Jalali had no involvement in the operation of the dispensary or with the marijuana industry: he was just a landlord that rented an office to two lawful California medical marijuana businesses, as he had to the dental office and insurance company in the same building.

Not only is medical marijuana legal in California, but state law prohibits the forfeiture of homes and buildings like Jalali’s unless the property owner is convicted of a felony crime.  In other words, state and local officials could not forfeit Jalali’s building under state law since he was never even accused of a crime.  But the city of Anaheim teamed up with the federal government to do an end-run around California law, allowing the city to benefit from a forfeiture they could not achieve under state law.  Using a federal forfeiture program known as "equitable sharing," if the federal government was successful in taking the property it could have kept 20% of the proceeds of the building—worth about $1.5 million—while the remainder could have gone to Anaheim law enforcement officials.  The equitable sharing program is a powerful incentive used by the federal government to enlist local law enforcement officials to cooperate in federal forfeiture prosecutions.

But, in October, 2013--after a year-long fight in federal court against the U.S. Department of Justice--Jalali prevailed.  The United States government dropped its civil forfeiture action, giving up its attempt to take his building. The government agreed to dismiss the case with prejudice, which means the government gave up any right to file the case again in the future and threaten the property.







Essential Background


Backgrounder: Fighting Civil Forfeiture: Federal & Local Law Enforcement Agencies Team Up to Profit by Subverting California State Law


Related Video: Policing for Profit

Latest Release: Anaheim Property Owner & IJ Win Civil Forfeiture Fight; Government Drops Case and Changes Policy Under Criticism (October 8, 2013)

Related Video: Feds try to take innocent elderly couple's Mom-and-Pop motel

Legal Briefs and Decisions

IJ's counter claim (PDF) 

Launch Release: Calif. Civil Forfeiture Battle Pits Property Owners and State Law Against City of Anaheim and Federal Government (May 1, 2013)


IJ’s Opposition to Government’s Motion to Dismiss Counterclaims (PDF) 

Case Timeline

Case Filed by United States:

August 21, 2012

IJ Begins Involvement in Case: May 1, 2013

Court Filed:

United States District Court for the Central District of California (Santa Ana)



Current Court: 

United States District Court for the Central District of California (Santa Ana)


Case dismissed (with prejudice), October 10, 2013.

Additional Releases

Reports, Maps, Charts and Facts


Download Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture

Detail: State Forfeiture Grades and Map IJ's Initiative to End Policing for Profit


Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Article: Federal case over rental to pot dispensary The Orange County Register (October 8, 2013)

Op-ed: Landlord fights building seizure The Orange County (May 1, 2013)
Article: Tewksbury's Motel Caswell wins forfeiture case The Lowell Sun (January 25, 2013)

Article: Another Drug War Nightmare; San Francisco Chronicle (November 6, 2012)

Video: Forfeiture Abuse: Even Your Drums Aren't Safe From the Police; (February 28, 2011)

Video: IJ's Scott Bullock discusses the Forfeiting Justice report; (November 18, 2010)

Video: Fox Business: IJ's Scott Bullock discusses "policing for profit" with David Asman; (August 10, 2010)


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