ASSET FORFEITURE (Civil or Judicial)
Asset Forfeiture (Civil Judicial Forfeiture) is an oppressive and ruthless legal process through which the state or federal government can take away your private property (including cash, bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, boats, planes, and more). All too often the government takes everything a person owns, thus depriving him or her of the funds needed to retain an attorney to challenge the forfeiture. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of federal and state statutes which trigger asset forfeiture. These statutes allow the government to seize property by proving that there is a connection between the property which the government seeks to confiscate and some illegal activity. The connection between the property and the illegal activity does not have to be substantial; it is often sufficient for the government to seize the property after it shows a certain level of "probable cause" to believe that the property and illegal activity are linked. Time is on the government's side. Under certain laws the government gains irrevocable ownership of the property after a certain amount of time unless the rightful owners HIRE AN ASSET FORFEITURE ATTORNEY in time to claim their property rights.
In recent years, both California and the federal government have used a wide variety of statutes to seize and ultimately confiscate personal and real property. The most common misconception is that the confiscation and forfeiture of property affects only those accused of crimes. This is not the case. Often people who have not been arrested, let alone criminally charged, have been forced to forfeit their possessions to state and federal agents including considerable amounts of money, cash, real estate, vehicles and various other property. Asset forfeiture laws often make it legal for the government to seize property from people who are completely innocent of any wrongdoing or crime.
As California and the federal government struggle with budget limitations and looks for new sources of revenue they are particularly keen on seizing assets. Asset forfeiture can be an easy source of revenue for the state or federal government when there are STRICT DEADLINES THAT YOU MUST MEET TO RECOVER YOUR ASSETS.
Federal forfeiture laws alone consist of hundreds of statutes and dozens of forfeiture categories relating to specific crimes such as drug trafficking and other controlled substances crimes, marijuana cultivation, tax evasion, money laundering, forgery and pornography.
Money may be seized at the airport by Federal Agents under provisions of Title 31, Unitesd States Code (U.S.C.) section 5317 (search and forfeiture of monetary instruments), 31 U.S.C. 5316 (reports on exporting and/or importing monetary instruments), or 31 U.S.C. 5332 (bulk cash smuggling).
In California, similar to the federal law, the state law enables the government to take your property under such statutes as The California Control of Profits of Organized Crime (California Penal Code §186), or California Health and Safety §11470(e), which allows forfeiture of controlled substances as well as any money, equipment or vehicles linked to possession of such substances.
Depending upon the specific facts of your case, you might have a strong defense against the forfeiture. Various viable defenses exist in California and under the federal law or the laws of many other states. Your defense might consist of the so-called third party "innocent owner" defense if you can show that the owner was not aware that the property was illegally obtained or, for example, that the owner of a rental property did not know that a tenant was using the property for an illegal activity. For example, with the help of a SKILLED ASSET FORFEITURE ATTORNEY, you might be able to prevent the forfeiture of your vehicle if you can show there is a co-owner such as an innocent spouse and the vehicle is used for the needs of your immediate family. Similarly, a family residence co-owned by an innocent person or spouse without knowledge of any unlawful use can be protected even when the owner was convicted for using the property to manufacture, distribute or possess controlled substances for sale. Even in a situation where you cannot prove your innocence, i.e., you cannot show a lack of connection to the tainted property or any wrongdoing, you still have rights and you still may be able to recover some or all of your property.
Don't let your assets be seized!
Have Rebecca on your side...
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO DO WHEN YOUR PROPERTY HAS BEEN SUBJECTED TO ASSET FORFEITURE:
The most important and smartest thing you can do is to seek legal advice as EARLY AS POSSIBLE. The forfeiture process has crucial deadlines and failure to respond and take the appropriate steps timely can undermine your ability to defend your rights in court and ultimately win your property back. Also, while you may be tempted to try to talk your way out of the forfeiture by explaining things to the prosecutors or the police on your own, this can be very dangerous. Once your property has been seized, the government representative will try to trick you into saying something which can and inevitably will be used against you while they run out the clock on your time to recover your property using an attorney.
WARNING: Simply mailing an asset forfeiture claim to a court may not result in a complete and timely filing and the deadline for filing may have run before you get any notice that your filing was incomplete.
CHOOSE YOUR ATTORNEY WISELY:
Unfortunately, unlike in criminal cases, you are usually not entitled to a public defender (free lawyer) in an asset forfeiture action. In an asset forfeiture case, an attorney will be appointed at public expense only in limited situations. Under the Civil Asset Forfeiture Act of 2000 (CAFRA) the right to a free attorney is triggered in two situations: (1) when a primary residence is involved and the homeowner cannot afford counsel and (2) when there is a pending federal criminal case. Some specific state asset forfeiture statutes also provide for free legal counsel.
Call me for a free and thorough consultation to evaluate the best strategy to recover your personal property. Depending on the circumstances I may be able to offer you a contingency arrangement (where I take a certain percentage of any money recovered and you pay nothing up-front).