It is never any fun to find yourself at the center of an asset forfeiture case. The is a process by which it seems that every type of government agency you can imagine works ruthlessly to seize hold of almost anything that you own. This can include all types of private property such as money, your bank accounts, various estates that you own, vehicles, and just about anything else that you have ownership over.
If you are involved in such a case, you need a qualified lawyer working on your case. This is because there are literally thousands of different federal statutes that the government can use to request an asset forfeiture. To go through them all on your own is almost certainly an exercise in futility. Each statute can be used the give the government the authority to take your property if it can be proven that there is a connection between your assets and some type of activity that is against the law. Even the smallest hint of probable cause can give the government the right to take action against your assets, as the burden of proof is not very strict in this case right from the beginning.
Two Types of Asset Forfeiture
There are two different types of asset forfeiture cases. One is handled at the state level via either a District Attorney or the Attorney General for the state. The second type of case is federal asset forfeiture, and that is what we are focusing on here. There are three main areas where federal law deals with asset forfeiture. They are:
These cases are almost always driven by the Assistant United States Attorney General of the district in which you reside.
This type of forfeiture takes place when the federal government acts to take property that no individual has laid proper claim to prior to a certain claim expiring. If the property has been seized and is subsequently deemed to be abandoned, the title for that asset will past onto the federal government. This is without the issue ever even reaching the court.
The ability of the federal government to start an administrative forfeiture proceeding is granted in the Tariff Act of 1930. Specifically, it is 19 U.S.C. 1607. The type of property that can be administratively forfeited includes any good that is imported illegally, any container used to import or store a controlled substance, money, or any form of property that is valued less than $500,000.
The purpose of any asset forfeiture is designed to thwart criminal enterprises. Individuals who are engaged in illegitimate businesses will be subject to forfeiture laws. At the same time, it needs to be proven that the business is not legitimate. If you have been accused of a crime that you did not commit, you need legal representation in order to ensure that your assets remain safe and in your name. You will want a professional criminal lawyer working on this for you from the beginning.
The Process Involved
A Federal prosecutor is required to provide notice to the individual before starting a forfeiture case. This notice must declare the intent to seize the forfeited property. If a criminal case is involved, then this forfeiture is mentioned as a possibility up until the moment that a verdict is issued. It is then that a separate court hearing will be held that relates to the forfeiture of assets. If the accused individual is actually found guilty, then the federal government will use the forfeiture hearing to demonstrate a direct link between the crime and the assets that are to be seized.
It is important to note that property belonging to someone else cannot be confiscated by the government. This is because third parties are shielded from being held liable to participate in a criminal case that is held in federal court. If you own assets that are being forfeited because somebody else is facing a criminal trial, then you will need to wait for the case proceedings to end. It is at this time that you can stipulate your intention to take back possession of the assets that you own.