What is Asset Seizure and Forfeiture?
The first thing the Department of Justice (DOJ), FBI or DEA will do when investigating and prosecuting in a white collar conspiracy case is seize the Defendant’s assets, including bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, boats, planes, or other personal property, and seek forfeiture. Asset seizure means that the Federal government takes physical control of the property, and asset forfeiture deprives you of title and ownership of the property. You have the right to an attorney to contest asset seizure and asset forfeiture.
If you are facing asset forfeiture or asset seizure, the most important thing you can do is seek legal advice from a forfeiture attorney as early as possible. The asset forfeiture process has a number of crucial deadlines, and failure to respond to asset forfeiture deadlines will result in permanent seizure of your assets.
21 U.S.C. §853 is the most common asset forfeiture statute used to seize assets. 21 U.S.C. §853 states that any property derived from illegal activity is subject to forfeiture. The government must only show that probable cause exists to believe that the property is the proceeds of illegal activity in order to seize the property.
If the government has seized your property, you will receive a Notice of Forfeiture from a Federal agency such as the DEA, IRS, ATF, or FBI. It is imperative that you contact a Federal Forfeiture Defense attorney immediately upon your receipt of the notice because a claim must be filed within the deadline to prevent the property from being permanently forfeited.
Can I Get My Property Back?
After obtaining a forfeiture attorney, your attorney will determine whether or not you should file a Petition for Mitigation, or seek judicial resolution of your forfeiture case. Most often, forfeiture attorneys choose to file a claim for the property which will require the Assistant U.S. Attorney to file a Civil Complaint in Federal Court. Once this occurs, your forfeiture attorney will litigate the case, file motions, seek dismissal, and possibly take the case to trial. At trial, the government will have to prove that the assets are subject to forfeiture under the Federal statute that was outlined in the civil complaint. Typically this is a violation of 21 U.S.C. §853 and the government will have to prove that the property was the proceeds of illegal activity. Generally, our best arguments in forfeiture cases are that the property can be traced to legitimate business activity, or that an innocent owner has title to the property.
Do I Need an Attorney?
Federal forfeiture statutes are detailed and complex – most attorneys, even criminal defense attorneys, are not familiar with the myriad of forfeiture statutes and do not have significant experience dealing with forfeitures. This is precisely why you need an attorney who has experience dealing with Federal forfeiture and asset seizure issues. If your car, boat, home, or financial assets have been seized or are subject to forfeiture by the DEA, IRS, DOJ, ATF, or FBI, call Chapman Law Group today and speak with a forfeiture attorney in our criminal defense section. We have experience dealing with forfeiture cases across the country!