Asset Forfeiture

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Federal and state law allows for the seizure of any property that was used to commit a crime, property acquired through the commission of a crime, or property that was purchased with proceeds from the commission of a crime. This is a civil lawsuit filed against you by the government against your assets. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of federal and state statutes that trigger asset forfeiture. The connection between the property and the illegal activity does not even have to be substantially related. Moreover, the seizure of your property does not require a criminal conviction or even a criminal charge.

Some examples of the types of property that are commonly seized through asset forfeiture are houses, cash, bank accounts, real estate, jewelry, cars, guns, electronics, computers and cell phones. Once the government has decided to seizure your property, they tend to take everything in sight, including property that you own lawfully. The government will often take any item that holds value in order to prevent you from hiring an attorney.

Generally, when the government seizes property, it has 30 days to file notice of forfeiture and commence the proceedings. It is extremely important that you contact an experienced asset forfeiture attorney immediately in order to ensure that you properly respond to any forfeiture notice. A failure to respond can lead to the permanent loss of your property without any further due process.

Defenses to Asset Forfeiture

The burden is on the government to prove that property was used to commit a crime, acquired through the commission of a crime, or purchased with proceeds from the commission of a crime.

One common defense is the third-party “innocent owner” defense. If you can show that the owner of a co-owner was not aware that the property was illegally obtained or, for example, that the owner of a rental property did not know that a tenant was using the property for an illegal activity then you can prevent the government from successfully seizing the property. Another example is if you can prove that an innocent spouse was a co-owner of the home and the home is used for an innocent purpose, such as providing shelter for her/his family. Further, the court is required to limit the value of any real property to the value necessary to maintain shelter in the community for the claimant and all of his or her dependents residing therein. If an innocent party has only a partial interest in the property, then the court may sever the interest of the guilty party, dividing the property between the government and the innocent party.

Another possible defense is the argument that the value of the forfeited property is disproportionate to the crime alleged. A successful defense of your case might be based on evidence provided by a forensic accountant who shows that your property was purchased with legitimated funds. Even in a situation where you cannot prove your innocence, you still have rights and you still might be able to beat your case.

Only recently, the government over-stepped its bounds and seized over $80,000 from one of Paul Doyle’s clients. The government attempted to claim that simply because the defendant was in the possession of drugs that all the cash in his possession was either from drugs or going to be used to buy more drugs. Paul Doyle fought the government’s claim and won back every single dollar.

It is important that you protect your property and make the government fight for every penny it is trying to take away. Contact Paul Doyle now and he will vigorously defend your property and challenge the government every step of the way.