FORFEITURE INFORMATION CENTER
Asset Forfeiture Laws
American forfeiture law is hardly new—it originates in the British
Navigation Acts of the mid-17th century. But over the past thirty years,
the government’s use of forfeiture confiscation laws has expanded
exponentially. The Justice Department’s National Assets Seizure
and Forfeiture Fund seized $27 million from drug-related forfeitures when
in was established in 1985. The total take climbed to $875 million by
1992, and to over $4 billion by 2014. Although the stated purpose of American
law enforcement agencies is to use forfeiture laws as a deterrence against
illegal activity, police and prosecutors have funded their operations
with money derived from forfeited property. Not surprisingly, asset forfeiture
has become of law enforcement’s weapons of choice.
Under our system, asset forfeiture may occur not just as part of a property
owner’s criminal conviction, but also in cases where criminal charges
are never brought—let alone proven. Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court
has upheld forfeiture statutes allowing “civil forfeiture”
even against innocent property owners!
Criminal and Civil forfeiture laws operate differently, but both are premised
on the idea that the forfeitable assets were derived from criminal activity
or facilitated it. Criminal forfeiture is considered part of the property
owner’s punishment, occurring only after a criminal conviction.
But civil forfeiture does not require a criminal conviction against the
owner of the confiscated property. Civil forfeiture law has been strongly
criticized as a constitutional violation and a serious assault on private
property rights. It occurs every day.
Criminal forfeiture requires a criminal conviction. The government confiscates
the property and/or assets involved in the criminal activity as part of
the offender’s punishment for a crime.
Civil forfeiture proceedings are directed towards property involved in
an illegal activity specified by the statute, premised on the theory that
the property itself, and not the owner, has violated the law.
Administrative forfeiture occurs when the government seizes property that
no person properly “claims” before a specified claim deadline
expires. If the seized property is so “abandoned,” its title
passes to the government without the matter ever being litigated in court.
Forfeiture Claims Deadlines
An individual who has received notice of civil or administrative forfeiture
has only a limited amount of time to respond. Depending on whether the
notice is governed by federal or state law, and whether it is civil or
criminal in nature, different procedures apply and different deadlines
govern the time a property owner has to respond. The claim deadlines are
strictly enforced. If you have received such a notice, you may be eligible
to file a property recovery claim, but it is imperative that you act promptly.
It also is imperative that you speak with counsel before filing a claim
because filing a careless claim may subject you to criminal prosecution.
Please contact The Federal Practice Group Worldwide Service’s knowledgeable
asset forfeiture attorneys to determine your options before they expire.
CRIMINAL AND CIVIL FORFEITURE LAW ATTORNEY
Immediate defense to protect your private property rights
The Federal Practice Group Worldwide Service, a Washington, D.C.-based
law firm, stands with individuals facing property forfeiture proceedings
and underlying criminal charges or civil forfeiture actions. The loss
of property without compensation intimidates individuals who are usually
not aware of the law enforcement agencies’ power to seize lawfully-acquired property.
Many property owners, lacking experience in the nuances of law enforcement
investigations, wrongly believe they can “talk their way out”
of an asset confiscation. More often than not, they prejudice their ability
to prevail by failing to seek legal counsel first.
An effective forfeiture defense requires an experienced legal team with
an understanding of the lengthy and complex process of property recovery
and property loss prevention under the law. Time is crucial in cases involving
asset forfeiture and property confiscation. Our law firm is nationally
recognized for our aggressive and expeditious representation of our clients’
Our zealous representation in forfeiture litigation, has included cases
involving criminal charges and cases where civil seizure actions were
taken directly against property, including:
- Cash, Bank and Investment Accounts
- Motor Vehicles
- Real Estate
- Professional Licenses
How The Firm Could Help You
The Federal Practice Group Worldwide Service legal team concentrates on
protecting your property while defending you on criminal charges in state
and federal courts.
Generally, the asset forfeiture process begins with the partial or entire
confiscation of property either after a court issues a warrant based on
an allegation that probable cause exists that the property was used in
or derived from a crime, or after police seize property without a warrant
and determine to allege the property is tainted by crime.
Every member of our legal team works diligently to challenge the government’s
procedure in seizing the property, including where appropriate identifying
unsubstantiated claims and inconsistencies in warrants, refuting testimony,
challenging specious conclusions, examining potential constitutional violations,
checking investigators’ backgrounds, and raising challenges where
prosecution evidence appears unreliable. In addition, when necessary,
our legal team employs professional techniques to trace and establish
any separation of the seized property from the alleged criminal activity.
Our accomplished asset forfeiture attorneys take steps to ensure protection
of your legal rights against serious assaults on your private property,
and against harassment by law enforcement agents and prosecutors.
If your assets have been threatened or seized, whether criminally or civilly,
contact The Federal Practice Group Worldwide Service for assistance.
“The government has used the asset forfeiture laws for years to seize
and keep the property of innocent people, often with little or no basis
for doing so. The asset forfeiture attorneys at The Federal Practice Group
Worldwide Service know how to fight for return of the property you worked
so hard for.”
--William R. Cowden, Former Chief, Asset Forfeiture/Money Laundering, United
States Attorney’s Office, Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.