HOW FORFEITURE WORKS
Government agencies are legally authorized to take property that they believe has been used in the commission of certain crimes, as well as the proceeds of those crimes. These forfeiture proceedings are intended to deter people from committing offenses by showing that crime does not pay. In practice, however, many law enforcement groups are heavy-handed in the way that they attack assets, using forfeiture laws to go after property that has little or no connection to an alleged crime. This is an issue that very often arises in drug cases, as both federal and state laws authorize broad seizures of money and property associated with alleged drug dealing.
Generally, government agencies have the power to seize tools used in the commission of a crime as well as illegal contraband, such as drugs, guns, and unlawful goods. Similarly, both federal and state governments may seize ill-gotten gains: money or property obtained through certain criminal actions. They are authorized to take the property by both criminal and civil laws. In criminal cases, forfeiture is part of the post-conviction sentencing phase. Civil forfeiture actions, on the other hand, are separate lawsuits that are defined as actions against the property itself.
DEFENDING FORFEITURE CASES
Fortunately, both federal and state laws offer some protections to people facing the potential forfeiture of assets. One of these is that government agencies must abide by strict notification and timing deadlines in forfeiture cases. In addition, police and other government agents must have probable cause to believe that the property was involved in or is related to a crime in order to seize it. This is more than just a hunch. Law enforcement must be able to clearly articulate the basis on which it is trying to take the asset. This means explaining the information that they used to determine that the property is related to illegal activity. A person facing a forfeiture action may also fight it by showing that the property came from a legitimate source or that the property was used in the criminal activity without the person’s knowledge.
CONSULT AN EXPERIENCED FORFEITURE LAWYER IN THE SEATTLE AREA
At Black Law, we use nearly two decades of combined experience to guide clients through forfeiture proceedings as well as the criminal cases from which they arise. We understand the complicated web of federal and state laws that govern asset forfeiture matters, and we know how to build compelling defenses for the people whom we represent. Our Seattle forfeiture attorneys also can assist people in Tacoma, Everett, Kent, Bellevue, and other areas of King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties. We frequently represent foreign nationals in the criminal justice process, and we often arrange translation services for people who speak Amharic, Arabic, French, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Tigrinya, Somali, Vietnamese, and many other languages. Call (206) 623-1604 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys. We can help Washington residents who need a drug crime attorney or representation in fighting charges of theft, violent crimes, sex offenses, white collar crimes, and other offenses.