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Destroying or Removing Property to Prevent Governmental Seizure

While most of us assume that we are free to do what we wish with our own personal property, the reality is that it is possible to be charged with a federal crime for destroying, transferring, damaging, or disposing of personal property. However, this is only true if the actions were undertaken in order to prevent or impair the ability of law enforcement officers to search or seize it. Those who are convicted of this offense could end up facing five years imprisonment and fines, in addition to the creation of a permanent criminal record, so it is important for these individuals to seek assistance from an experienced federal crime lawyer who may be able to get their charges reduced or dismissed entirely.

What Type of Conduct is Unlawful? 

Most of the time, we can do whatever we want with our private property. However, this is not the case if the property in question is the object of a search or seizure. In these cases, people are prohibited from destroying, damaging, wasting, transferring, disposing of, or attempting to commit any of these acts at certain times, including before, during, or after a search or seizure of the property by law enforcement.

Necessary Intent  

Fortunately, a person cannot be convicted for accidentally destroying a potential piece of evidence. This is because federal law limits prosecution to situations where a person knowingly destroys, damages, or transfers a piece of property for the purpose of preventing or impairing law enforcement’s authority to take that property into its custody.

Civil Forfeiture  

In fact, this type of conduct is unlawful even if the property was not used for a criminal purpose, as federal law allows defendants to be prosecuted in court if they destroy property that they know is subject to civil forfeiture to the U.S. government. These types of proceedings are against a person’s property and not necessarily against the owner him or herself and are separate from criminal prosecution. Further, only certain types of property can be labeled as civilly forfeitable, including:

  • Property that was actually used to commit an offense;
  • Property that was derived from an offense; or
  • Property that is somehow traceable to a crime.

All actions involving civil forfeiture must be commenced no later than five years after the offense was discovered or within two years after the time when the property’s involvement in the offense was discovered, whichever date is later.

Consequences of Conviction  

Despite the differences between civil and criminal seizure, a person can only be convicted of this offense if there is evidence that he or she destroyed the property for the purpose of impairing or defeating the court’s jurisdiction or ability to search or seize the property. Furthermore, regardless of whether the property was involved in a civil or a criminal matter, defendants who are convicted face severe penalties, including not only fines, but also up to five years imprisonment.

Call Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with a Dedicated Federal Crime Lawyer  

Please contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A., Criminal Defense Attorneys in Miami at (305) 670-9919 to speak with an experienced federal crime attorney about your own pending charges. Our legal team is eager to assist you with your case.


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