Many people associate being charged with a federal crime with arrest, detainment, and an eventual trial. While these are all important aspects of being charged with a federal offense, one lesser known consequence is asset seizure by law enforcement. The government is permitted to seize someone’s personal property if it determines that the property in question is somehow connected to the commission of a federal crime. This can have devastating consequences for those who are unfairly accused of committing federal offenses, especially because it is often extremely difficult to have property returned after the seizure has occurred, even if charges have been dropped. If you are facing the seizure of your personal assets, or the seizure has already taken place, it is critical to obtain the assistance of experienced legal counsel who is well-versed in federal law and can help assert your rights.
What is Asset Forfeiture?
Asset forfeiture, or asset seizure is a tool used by law enforcement agencies against those who are accused of or have been arrested for federal crimes. In fact, assets can be seized even when charges have not been brought, as long as law enforcement officers have a search warrant or a seizure order. Although the practice is intended to disrupt and deter defendants who have preyed on others for financial gain, it can have serious consequences for those who are eventually deemed innocent. The government can seize any type of property that it believes is connected to, derived from, or associated with the commission of a federal crime, including bank account funds, contraband, cash, houses, and vehicles. In some cases, even the family members of a defendant can have their assets seized by the government.
Types of Forfeiture
There are three main types of asset forfeiture: criminal, civil, and administrative. Criminal forfeiture occurs as part of the criminal prosecution of a defendant and requires the government to indict the property derived or used from the crime. Although defendants have the opportunity to contest criminal seizure of their personal property, it must be done through official trial proceedings, which can be time-consuming and expensive.
Civil Judicial forfeiture doesn’t require a criminal conviction, but still gives law enforcement agencies the ability to seize property involved in a crime. The final type of asset seizure permitted by the government is administrative forfeiture, which occurs when the seizure is not contested.
Houses and other real property cannot be forfeited administratively. If a person later decides to contest an administrative seizure, the government must respond by using judicial forfeiture proceedings to gain title.
Fortunately, there are a number of defenses that a person can raise if his or her property has been seized by the government, including that:
- The property was not involved in a crime;
- The owner was not aware of the criminal nature of the property; or
- The property was unlawfully seized.
To find out more about these and other defenses that may be available to you, please call a federal crimes attorney for assistance.
Call Our Legal Team Today
For a free evaluation of your own federal case, please call dedicated federal crimes attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. at 305-670-9919 today. Our South Florida legal team is prepared to assist you immediately.