Civil Asset Forfeiture - Is the government trying to give itself a gift of your stuff?
Both State and Federal law allow for, under certain circumstances, the seizure of property belonging to an individual if that property is the proceeds from illegal activity, obtained using the proceeds of illegal activity, or was used in the commission of a crime.
These seizures are often conducted in cases involving controlled dangerous substances in state court. In federal court, they are often seen in cases involving white collar transactions and large drug cases.
Many people are aware that the government can seize the assets of a person convicted of a crime, but far fewer people are aware that the assets of third parties can also be subject to seizure. For example, the parents of a person charged with distribution of a controlled substance, who lives with them, may find themselves the subject of a civil asset forfeiture if their child is alleged to have sold drugs out of their home. Any asset can be seized by the government using civil asset forfeiture including: money, land, vehicles, buildings, and jewelry.
In both state and federal courts there are procedures that the government must follow to seize assets they believe were obtained through criminal activity. These processes usually involve notice to the person whose property the government is intending to seize; an opportunity to object and request a hearing which may include an opportunity to prove that the property was not used in the commission of a criminal offense, that the property was not owned by the individual who was engaging in criminal activity, or to provide further evidence to show why the government should not be allowed to seize the property. If the property is ordered seized after this hearing, there are usually options for appeal.
The time periods to request these hearings or appeal the forfeiture are usually very short, sometimes less than 30 days.
If you or someone you know has received notice that the government is attempting to seize their property as part of a civil asset forfeiture claim, call us for a consult at (318) 459-9111.