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Federal Criminal Asset Forfeiture

December 18, 2020
Dealing With Federal Criminal Asset Forfeeiture
There is a legal action that can be brought in conjunction with the criminal prosecution of a defendant, it is called criminal forfeiture. This legal action involves the government seizing property derived from or utilized in connection with a crime. Should a jury render a verdict that property listed as part of a crime is forfeitable, the court will then issue a legal order of forfeiture.

History
The history of asset forfeiture is one of an ancient practice done by governments for hundreds of years. It was utilized to discourage and defend against piracy. Governments would seize a vessel and all the contraband it contained.

Use Of Forfeiture Laws
Today, federal criminal asset forfeiture laws are used to remove the tools of a criminal’s trade. It is used to dismantle, disrupt and deter criminals from going after the vulnerable for financial gain. A goal of these laws is to return assets to a victim.

Victims Programs
The Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program has returned billions of forfeited assets to victims. This has been done by placing forfeited funds with courts so victims can be paid restitution. The forfeited property has been used for everything from building government facilities to sheltering child abuse victims as well as advancing community-based policing. Forfeited funds have been used to finance the salaries of school resource officers, job skills programs, bulletproof vests, bomb-sniffing canines and more.

Forfeiture Laws
An effort was made to fight organized crime and drug trafficking starting in the 1970s. In order to make this possible, federal lawmakers significantly expanded forfeiture laws in the United States. Since these laws have been put in place, the value and amount of personal and real property seized by the federal government have increased dramatically. Agents of the federal government can seize a boat if they can prove it was utilized to transport drugs. They can seize a warehouse and all its contents if it can be shown the warehouse was used to store drugs. A residence can be seized, if it can be shown it was bought using money made from illegal activity. A car can also be seized, if it is shown the vehicle was purchased using funds from illegal activity or was used in the commission of illegal acts.

Criminal Enterprise
The federal government is using criminal asset forfeiture as a way to undermine criminal enterprise infrastructures. In many cases, a criminal enterprise will function as a legitimate business. They will need cash flow, as well as employees, and equipment to operate. A criminal enterprise generates its profits from the sale of illegal services or products. With federal asset forfeiture, the equipment, as well as profits, and the products seized by the government could make a criminal enterprise unable to operate.

Criminal Conviction
Not every federal criminal case will involve forfeiture. This can only be utilized if a defendant is charged with a crime that permits forfeiture. It can be used with crimes involving child pornography, money laundering, organized crime, drug trafficking as well as copyright infringement and more. In order for forfeiture to be utilized, a defendant must be convicted of a crime.

Seizing Property
It is up to a prosecutor to show assets should be seized after a defendant is convicted of a crime that permits it. A prosecutor will have to convince a jury using evidence that a defendant’s property was used as part of their criminal activity. Prior to assets being seized, a prosecutor will have to follow the legal standard applicable to the criminal conviction.

Third Party Interests
In a federal criminal asset forfeiture case, an individual has the right to challenge the seizure of their property during trial proceedings. An ancillary hearing for third parties will take place. These hearings are so third parties can assert interest concerning their property. A court will issue a final forfeiture order once the interests of the third party are addressed.

Should a person be charged or convicted of a crime where asset forfeiture is involved, they could lose a substantial amount of their assets. In many cases, criminal forfeiture laws have been abused by the government. In this situation, the help of an experienced attorney can make a huge difference. They will know how to protect a person’s rights. An attorney can help a person lose as little as possible in asset forfeiture and obtain the best possible outcome.

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