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WASHINGTON CIVIL FORFEITURE

WASHINGTON CIVIL FORFEITURE LAWS

The State of Washington may attempt to seize property connected to illegal activity in a civil proceeding. If you’re the owner of such property, it’s imperative that you understand how this seizure may occur. Civil forfeiture actions proceed, not against the owner of the property, but against the property itself (e.g., a car used in the commission of a crime). For the State to legally seize the property, it 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 and it’s generally met if the State can show that the property was more likely than not associated with a crime.

If the State is successful in its proof, then attention is placed on the owner of the property. The owner may attempt to recover his property by showing that he had nothing to do with the criminal activity involved in the case. Please note that governmental agencies in Washington can initiate civil forfeiture proceedings even if no criminal charges have been filed.

Forfeiture laws have established 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

CIVIL FORFEITURE DEFENSES

There are legal defenses that may be raised in civil forfeiture proceedings. These get raised so that the rightful owner of the property (that is subject to forfeiture), may recover the property. One such defense was addressed above and involves the owner showing that he had nothing to do with the criminal activity in question. Another defense to forfeiture is to show that the government cannot successfully meet its preponderance of the evidence burden. Additionally, if law enforcement violated constitutional rights in searching for property or seizing it, these violations can be raised as defense to the forfeiture proceeding.  Finally, a successful defense of a forfeiture case often results in the state being forced to pay the property owner’s attorney fees.

No matter the specific defense, however, it will never get raised unless you have a successful forfeiture lawyer in your corner. Black Law has talented forfeiture attorneys that know how to build compelling defenses on your behalf. They have over two decades of combined experience representing clients in Seattle and Washington forfeiture cases. Contact them now for assistance.

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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