American forfeiture law originates in the British Navigation Acts of the mid-17th century. However, the government’s use of forfeiture confiscation laws has expanded exponentially since their advent in the UK. The Justice Department’s National Assets Seizure and Forfeiture Fund seized over $4 billion from drug-related forfeitures in 2014. Although the stated purpose of American law enforcement agencies is to use forfeiture laws as a deterrence against illegal activity, police and prosecutors have funded their operations with money derived from forfeited property. Unsurprisingly, asset forfeiture has become one of law enforcement’s most useful weapons.
Under the current system, asset forfeiture may occur not just as part of a property owner’s criminal conviction, but also in cases where criminal charges are never brought or proven. Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld forfeiture statutes allowing “civil forfeiture” even against innocent property owners.
Criminal and Civil forfeiture laws operate differently, but both are premised on the idea that the forfeitable assets were derived from criminal activity or facilitated it. Criminal forfeiture is considered part of the property owner’s punishment, occurring only after a criminal conviction. The requirement of conviction is one way in which Civil forfeiture is different from the Criminal version. Because civil forfeiture does not require a criminal conviction against the owner of the confiscated property, the practice has been strongly criticized as a constitutional violation and a serious assault on private property rights.
Criminal forfeiture requires a criminal conviction. The government confiscates the property and/or assets involved in the criminal activity as part of the offender’s punishment for a crime.
Civil forfeiture proceedings are directed towards property involved in an illegal activity specified by the statute, premised on the theory that the property itself, and not the owner, has violated the law.
Administrative forfeiture occurs when the government seizes property that no person properly “claims” before a specified claim deadline expires. If the seized property is so “abandoned,” its title passes to the government without the matter being litigated in court.
An individual who has received notice of civil or administrative forfeiture has only a limited amount of time to respond. Different procedures and deadlines may apply depending on the nature of the claim and the agency from which it comes. The claim deadlines are strictly enforced. If you have received such a notice, you may be eligible to file a property recovery claim, but it is imperative that you act promptly. It also is imperative that you speak with counsel before filing a claim because filing a careless claim may subject you to further criminal prosecution. Please contact the Federal Practice Group’s knowledgeable asset forfeiture attorneys to determine your options before they expire.
The Federal Practice Group stands with individuals facing property forfeiture proceedings and underlying criminal charges or civil forfeiture actions. Loss of property without compensation can be intimidating for individuals who are not familiar with the power of law enforcement agencies.
Many property owners, lacking experience in the nuances of law enforcement investigations, wrongly believe they can “talk their way out” of an asset confiscation. Often times, the owner will sacrifice his or her property by failing to seek legal counsel.
An effective forfeiture defense requires an experienced legal team with an understanding of the lengthy and complex process of property recovery and property loss prevention. Attention to time and detail are crucial skills in cases involving asset forfeiture and property confiscation. Our firm is nationally recognized for aggressive and expeditious representation of our clients’ interests.
Our representation in forfeiture litigation has included cases involving criminal charges and cases where civil seizure actions were taken directly against property, including:
The legal team at the Federal Practice Group concentrates on protecting your property while defending you on criminal or civil charges in state and federal courts.
Generally, the asset forfeiture process begins with partial or entire confiscation of property. This can happen with or without a warrant, depending on the situation.
We will work diligently to challenge the government’s procedure in seizing the property.We can assist by establishing a separation of the property and criminal alleged activity, refuting testimony, examining constitutional violations, or any other technique required by your case. Our accomplished asset forfeiture attorneys take steps to ensure protection of your legal rights against serious assaults on your private property, and against harassment by law enforcement agents and prosecutors.
If your assets have been threatened or seized, whether criminally or civilly, contact the Federal Practice Group for assistance.
The Federal Practice Group provides skilled, results-driven representation. Through their thorough and aggressive representation of clients, our attorneys have earned a reputation throughout the legal community as relentless advocates who leave no stone unturned. This passionate, exacting approach yields results for our clients.