FEDERAL CRIMINAL FORFEITURE
FEDERAL CRIMINAL FORFEITURE LAWS
Federal agencies can try to seize property under criminal or civil law. Please click here to learn about federal civil forfeiture laws. In criminal matters, forfeiture is a punitive measure. That is, it’s a type of penalty taken against a defendant after conviction of a crime.
Two separate burdens of proof are noteworthy for one to understand federal criminal forfeiture cases. The first is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Unlike federal civil forfeiture cases, criminal charges must be filed in these proceedings in order for the government to pursue the forfeiture of property. In addition, a defendant must be found guilty of these charges; and, the defendant’s guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
The actual forfeiture of property though requires a lower burden of proof. If a defendant is found guilty of a crime (beyond a reasonable doubt), then for forfeiture of property to occur, the government must show, by “a preponderance of the evidence,” that there was a connection between the property and the crime. If the defendant cannot rebut this showing, then the government may seize the property in question.
As with federal civil forfeiture cases, 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 CRIMINAL FORFEITURE PROCEEDINGS
Some defenses are available that may protect defendants facing forfeiture of property. A criminal defense lawyer, for example, may argue that the government failed to meet both burdens of proof mentioned above. If the government failed with the first, then there is no conviction and no wrongful act to get punished. If the government failed with the second, then it cannot legally seize property. Further, a defendant may try to prove that the government initially gained access to the property via unlawful means or in violation of technical rules.
The Seattle criminal defense lawyers at Black Law have over twenty years of combined experience with federal criminal forfeiture cases. They know how to build compelling defenses for the forfeiture clients they represent. They also provide unwavering representation to those clients charged with a crime. Please contact Black Law now. Our Seattle defense firm is here for you or your loved one.
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