If you’ve had your home, car, or other belongings taken from you unexpectedly, you are probably in complete shock and unsure of what your next course of action should be. Though this process, called forfeiture, is known to occur in cases of stolen property and drug dealing, many are surprised to know that you do not have to have a criminal conviction for the government to seize your property. This practice is referred to as civil forfeiture, and it’s more common than you might think. Below, I will explain a few things you should know about cases of criminal and civil forfeiture.
Why Were Your Assets Taken?
By law, any assets that are believed to have been obtained as a result of criminal activity may be seized. Unfortunately, forfeiture can occur with little probable cause, as your possessions can be taken even before a criminal conviction has been made. One New Jersey family, for instance, lost their entire home after their 22-year-old son was suspected of selling $40 worth of heroin. Law enforcement’s rationale was that the house was being used to store and distribute the drugs, but his parents — the owners of the home — had no knowledge of their son’s illegal activity. Furthermore, it was their son’s first drug charge, and he had not even yet been convicted. Such stories sound unimaginable, but they happen to everyday, law-abiding citizens.
Fight to Get Your Belongings Back
What Can the Government Seize?
As highlighted above, forfeiture is not limited to funds made from illegal activity. Law enforcement has the right to seize vehicles, bank accounts, expensive jewelry, real property, and business profits, too. Something many small business owners do not know is that all deposits over $10,000 must be reported to the Bank Secrecy Act. If you fail to report a significant deposit, or regularly make smaller deposits, your bank account could be frozen or seized entirely. This is because business owners who make frequent small deposits are often flagged for trying to evade the system, and thus, are viewed as suspicious. The problem is that these business owners are typically just making routine deposits, not attempting to cover up any illegal activity.
How You Can Fight Back
Forfeitures, especially those without an accompanying criminal conviction, must be handled delicately. After all, government officials — the same people who took your belongings — will be the ones determining whether or not you get them back. For this reason, it is important that you hire an attorney who is familiar with the intricate nature of forfeiture cases.
I have personally represented many cases of both criminal and civil forfeiture, and I’d love to help you attain success in your case, as well. I have extensive experience negotiating with government agencies involved in asset forfeiture, and I understand how these types of cases are often won. Reach out to my office for a case evaluation to learn more about the process.
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If your belongings have been wrongfully taken from you, now is not the time for a passive approach. You need to fight, and securing quality legal representation is the first step toward attaining justice. Use the form below to schedule a brief case evaluation at my firm.