Our criminal defense lawyers work hard to fight forfeiture cases. These cases include:

  • Washington Civil Forfeiture Cases;
  • Federal Civil Forfeiture Cases; and,
  • Federal Criminal Forfeiture Cases.

The laws within each type of case differ so it’s important to take a look at each one in detail. Please also note that if you’re facing a forfeiture case, there are several legal defenses that a skilled criminal defense attorney can raise on your behalf. The forfeiture lawyers at Black Law, PLLC are committed to helping those in Seattle and across Washington protect their rights and their property to the fullest extent of the law.

Washington State 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

Federal Civil 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. 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.

As with Washington civil forfeiture matters, forfeiture laws identify 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

Federal Criminal Forfeiture Laws

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 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 the other types of forfeiture cases discussed above, laws provide 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 Washington State and Federal Forfeiture Cases

Forfeiture laws offer some protection to people facing the potential forfeiture of property. For example, strict timing and notification deadlines are involved 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 the burdens of proof discussed above. 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 represents clients in Seattle and throughout other Washington communities. Contact our Seattle criminal lawyers today and get the representation you deserve.