Civil Forfeiture, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 983, is becoming a common means for the federal (and local) Governments to obtain revenue. We are starting to see it more and more: law enforcement officers are more interested in the assets they can recover than the actual crime.
Brown Law provides strong representation in these matters. Our successes includes the following:
*Recovering tens of thousands of dollars for clients whose currency was seized by local and federal authorities;
*Recovering the luxury automobile of a major hip-hop recording star based in Atlanta; and
*Representing property owners’ whose land was subject to protective orders because of association with alleged fraud.
Click HERE to read recent press coverage of our work in civil asset forfeiture.
Unlike criminal asset forfeiture, a civil forfeiture is a civil action against the property itself. It is not against an individual. Thus, civil forfeiture matters have odd-sounding names, such as United States v. $1,234,568.00 in U.S. Currency or United States v. Ninety-Nine Firearms. Because civil forfeitures are not part of a criminal case, they can be filed even if there is no criminal proceeding – or even if the criminal charges have been dismissed.
In these proceedings, like most civil cases, the Government only needs to prove its case by a preponderance of the evidence. That is, the Government must show that it was more likely than not that the property was derived from or was used to commit a criminal offense. (This, of course, is very different from the familiar “beyond reasonable doubt” standard associated with a criminal case).
As is common in forfeiture proceedings, an individual who has a claim to the property must come forward and assert that claim. If they fail to do so in a timely manner, the property may be lost. Once the claimant has come forward, the case proceeds as any other civil case: there is discovery, depositions, motions and, sometimes, a trial.
This process can be complicated, and sometimes perilous. For example, there may be times when it is inadvisable to claim certain property because it could expose the claimant to criminal charges. In addition, a claimant may be hesitant to allow his deposition under oath – for fear that he may implicate himself in another offense. Your attorney should weigh these concerns when helping you decide how to proceed.
Unlike other kinds of forfeiture, civil asset forfeiture has at least one limitation: the Government can only take the actual property associated with the crime; it cannot cast a wider net.
If your property has been seized and the federal government is seeking forfeiture, please call Brown Law for immediate assistance.