Under both federal and state law, law enforcement agents are allowed to seize property for a business or individual under limited circumstances. Many seizures for forfeitures never result in an arrest for any type of crime.
Law enforcement officers and agencies have incentives to use civil asset forfeiture law to separate people and businesses from their property.
After your money or property is taken by a police officer or federal agent, immediately seek out the services of an asset forfeiture attorney to find out the best way to challenge the taking, the benefits of contesting the action in court, and possible ways to force the government to pay your attorney fees and costs if you win in court.
Without the help of a good forfeiture attorney, the owner of the property faces a long ordeal to challenge the taking. In fact, because of the complications in challenging forfeitures, trying to represent yourself in a forfeiture action might lead to a form letter denying your claim.
Agencies have lots of experience in funneling these cases into administrative proceeds which leave the agency in total control. The public is often tricked into an administrative action instead of filing a claim for court action (early judicial intervention) where the chances of getting the property returned quickly are increased.
If your property was seized, you need to seek out competent legal advice immediately.
At Lawyer Legion, we created an online attorney directory that can help you find a top attorney in your area to challenge a forfeiture action in state or federal court. Our directory helps the public find information on qualified forfeiture lawyers located close to where the seizure occurred.
Contact the attorney as quickly as possible after money or other property is seized. During the first ten days after the seizure, your attorney can preserve evidence that will help you get your property back more quickly included surveillance video. The attorney can also help you file your claim for court action (early judicial intervention) that helps you bypass the useless administrative proceedings.
Act quickly because very short deadlines exist in these cases to file a claim for court action or a complaint when a deadline is missed by the other side. Depending on which forfeiture laws apply, the deadlines to act might be as short as 10 days or 15 days.
Many forfeiture attorneys work on a contingency basis which means you do not have to pay any attorney fees upfront and the attorney only gets paid if they get your property back.
Find out how to win a civil forfeiture case with the help of a good attorney. Use the Lawyer Legion directory to find a civil asset forfeiture attorney near you. Many of the top civil asset forfeiture attorneys also focus on criminal defense because of the issues that overlap between the two practice areas.
Many of the cases involve an officer approaching a person with no probable cause and then subjecting them to an illegal or prolong detention. Although the person isn’t required to answer questions, many people succumb to harsh interrogations all in an attempt to be able to leave with their property.
The officer or agent is supposed to provide a receipt. In some cases, the law enforcement officer who takes the property forces the person to sign an abandonment form or uses other coercive practices to discourage a person from hiring an attorney to contest the forfeiture.
Forfeiture laws and the ways the laws are applied threaten fairness in the system. Several organizations fight for the reform of asset forfeiture laws to limit their usage and increase due process throughout the process.
Law enforcement officers know that even innocent people fail to contest the forfeiture only because the system is so burdensome. The more profit law enforcement agencies make from seizing assets, the more aggressive they become in their tactics. Each year, the net being cast become wider and catches more innocent people.
What assets can be seized in forfeiture? Any type of property might be subjected to seizure and forfeiture including U.S. currency (paper money, cash), vehicles, bank accounts, and jewelry.
Several organizations support attorneys that challenge civil asset forfeiture cases. For instance, the Forfeiture Endangers American Rights (FEAR) has an on-line directory of Forfeiture Attorneys.
Attorneys who have been or are currently listed in the directory of civil asset forfeiture attorneys include:
NACDL on Forfeiture Defense - Visit the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) website to learn more about seizures and civil asset forfeitures. Learn more about why many of the top criminal defense attorneys also fight forfeitures cases. Find updates on NACDL's Model Asset Forfeiture Legislation and the Asset Forfeiture Resolution. Learn more pending state and federal legislation on civil asset forfeiture actions.
John Oliver on Civil Asset Forfeiture - Watch a video from "Last Week Tonight" by comedian John Oliver explaining the absurdities found in civil asset seizure and forfeiture laws in the United States and the way they are applied in the field.
This article was last updated on Friday, April 2, 2021.