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FEDERAL CIVIL FORFEITURE

FEDERAL CIVIL FORFEITURE LAWS

Federal agencies can try to seize property connected to illegal acts. They can try to do so in both civil and criminal proceedings. There are differences within each, so please click here to learn about federal criminal forfeiture laws.

Federal civil forfeiture actions can grow complex. However, matters get simplified if you understand a few critical rules. First, civil forfeiture actions proceed against the property in question. That is, the property is the defendant in the case and not the property owner. Second, a criminal charge does not have to get filed before these proceedings may commence.

Finally, to legally seize the property at issue, the government must prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” that the property was associated with criminal activity. “Preponderance of the evidence” is a specific legal test.  It’s generally met if the government can show that the property was more likely than not associated with a crime. Note that if the government can meet this test, it is then up to the owner of the property to prove that the owner was not aware of the illegal use of the property..

The United States Supreme Court has identified three categories of property that are subject to forfeiture. These include:

  • Contraband – property for which it’s a crime to own (e.g., illegal drugs)
  • Proceeds from illegal activity – essentially property that results from, or can be traced back to illegal activity
  • Tools used in commission of a crime – property used to commit a crime

DEFENSES IN FEDERAL CIVIL FORFEITURE PROCEEDINGS

Federal laws offer some protection to people facing the potential forfeiture of property. For example, federal agencies must abide by strict timing and notification deadlines in forfeiture cases. Property may not be seized if these were not followed or met. Moreover, defenses can be raised that challenge the government’s ability to meet its preponderance of the evidence test. Finally, even in cases where the government can establish the legal requirements for forfeiture, property owners can argue that forfeiture of the property is too drastic of a consequence for the illegal behavior.  In a sense , the argument is that the punishment does not fit the crime.

At Black Law, our forfeiture lawyers have the experience to raise the best defense on your behalf. These attorneys have over twenty years of combined experience representing and guiding clients through forfeiture cases. They are passionate and tireless in their efforts. Our firm represent clients in Seattle and throughout other Washington communities. Contact our Seattle criminal lawyers today and get the representation you deserve.

We serve clients throughout Washington including those in the following localities: King County including Bellevue, Kent, and Seattle; Benton County including Kennewick; Chelan County including Wenatchee; Clallam County including Port Angeles; Grays Harbor County including Aberdeen; Kitsap County including Port Orchard; Kittitas County including Ellensburg; Pierce County including Tacoma; Skagit County including Mount Vernon; Snohomish County including Everett; Spokane County including Spokane; Thurston County including Olympia; Whatcom County including Bellingham; and Yakima County including Yakima.

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