Defendants often seek to prove that seized assets were not used in an illegal way or purchased with ill-gotten gains. Litigation on asset forfeiture begins after a criminal case is resolved. In addition, the Innocent Owner’s Defense often comes into play.
Innocent owner defenses
Taking the right steps to fight forfeiture is a great way to avoid losing your assets to the Federal government. If you’re unsure of your rights in this regard, seek the advice of a qualified defense lawyer.
Forfeit is defined as the legal process of removing or seizing property on the basis of a suspicion of criminal activity. Innocent parties can object to forfeiture proceedings. They can also reclaim their property if they can prove the government did not follow legal procedures.
The statutory or regulatory “innocent owner defense” is a good example of a simple defense that can keep your property out of the hands of the IRS or the Department of Justice. Unlike criminal cases, where the government is forced to prove the defendant is guilty, civil forfeiture cases are governed by rules and regulations, such as 18 U.S.C. SS 983.
Seizure is the first step toward forfeiture
Whether you are a company or a private individual, there are numerous issues associated with civil asset forfeiture. If you are involved in a company that is subject to a forfeiture, you may be exposed to the risk of spoliation of evidence, a breach of attorney-client privilege, and potential exposure for aiding and abetting a crime. Depending on the type of company you work for, you may also be exposed to the risk of becoming a target for an internal investigation.
The first step toward defending your property is to notify the appropriate law enforcement agency. The next is to file a claim in writing. The third is to prove that the asset was not part of the criminal act in question. The fourth is to show that you have taken reasonable steps to avoid illegal use of the asset.
State requirements for civil forfeiture
Approximately 400 federal statutes authorize police to seize property from non-criminals. The Institute for Justice reported that the United States Department of Justice collected $29 billion in annual revenue from civil asset forfeitures.
To take property through civil forfeiture, the government must prove that the property is connected to a crime. They must also prove that a third party knew about the criminal activity. Forfeit laws have been used to seize property belonging to the mob, drug dealers, prostitutes, drunk drivers, and more.
The state must first file a complaint to forfeit the property within 90 days of the seizure. The state can then transfer the property to another party. The property may be used for official purposes, such as in a court case, or it may be returned to the owner.
Litigation on asset forfeiture begins after a defendant’s criminal case is resolved
Typically, courts will give you a lot of leeway in terms of what qualifies as an asset. But, the question is, how does the Federal government go about seizing the property?
The federal government has a limited amount of power when it comes to seizing assets for criminal reasons. Typical examples include drug trafficking, money laundering and a myriad of other crimes. If you have a Federal crime on your hands, it’s a good idea to take a few affirmative steps to minimize the chances of your property being confiscated.
The best way to do this is to get legal counsel from a federal criminal defense attorney with a proven track record. The Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. is located in New York City and offers a free initial consultation.
Defendants often seek to prove that seized assets were neither used for an illegal purpose nor purchased with ill-gotten gains
Defendants often seek to prove that seized assets were neither used for an illegal purpose nor purchased with ill-gotten gains. They may argue that the property was never involved in the crime, and that the government should not be able to confiscate it.
Seizure is the process by which a Federal agent takes physical possession of an asset. This can occur before or after a criminal conviction. To seize an asset, a prosecutor must identify it and have a warrant signed by a judge.
The standard for forfeiture is a preponderance of evidence. This means that there is a more than 50% chance that the property was involved in the crime. This is a lower standard than the reasonable doubt standard.
The prosecutor must show that the property was acquired by a third party with knowledge of criminal activity. The prosecutors are unlikely to win the forfeiture proceedings because the value of the property is too small.