Losing your property in a property forfeiture operation can be detrimental to your life because you risk losing your home or other highly valuable possessions. Moreover, your loved ones will be exposed to the severe consequences of forfeiture like becoming homeless or facing significant financial constraints. You could also receive a prison sentence that prevents you from protecting your loved ones and your property from forfeiture. Therefore, learning about the possible reasons for property forfeiture and how to prevent it is crucial. With the information, you can pre-empt the arguments that the prosecutor intends to use against you and persuade the judge to stop the foreclosure motion.
However, you need an experienced asset forfeiture attorney to help you through the case for the best chances of success in retaining your property. At Asset Forfeiture Attorney, we aim to provide reliable asset recovery services for any client in California, or any part of the country who had to forfeit their property to the government. We also understand the complexities of dealing with government agencies and prosecutors and conduct thorough research to help you stop the forfeiture, or recover your property.
The Nature of Property Forfeiture in a Federal Case
Generally, three different types of forfeitures occur after investigations reveal your involvement in unlawful operations. You may undergo a criminal forfeiture for committing crimes prohibited under the penal code. These include the federal offenses to be discussed below.
Additionally, you may face civil or administrative forfeitures for acquiring property based on committing torts or administrative malpractices. The details of each forfeiture procedure depend on the circumstances of your case, and the type of property you acquired illegally.
Once you face arrest after committing a federal crime, law enforcement officers will conduct in-depth investigations. Their goal is to identify any evidential sources for use in the criminal trial. The evidence may include property that you used or illegally obtained from the federal offense.
Normally, federal crimes are treated as serious cases, especially because most include interstate operations. Law enforcement officers and prosecutors will therefore scrutinize the circumstances of your case to prevent subsequent recurrent incidents. If the investigating officers identify property associated with the type of offense you committed, the authorized agencies or office of the prosecutor can seize it.
As mentioned, property forfeiture is among the many penalties you could face after being convicted in a criminal trial. Subsequently, the goal is to seize property to prevent you from benefiting from it in any way because you will have obtained or used it unlawfully. Due to this, suspects arrested for federal crimes should not expect the government agencies to refund them for the forfeiture. This is because they will be undergoing retribution to discourage repeat offenses of the same nature.
Outcomes of Property Forfeiture for the Government Agencies
One of the reasons for government agencies to pursue a property forfeiture case is because they obtain a lot of benefits. For example, any forfeiture property will contribute to the agencies’ annual revenue, meaning that they have access to improved facilities and systems of working.
Therefore, if you have to forfeit a large sum of money after arrest for a federal offense, the funds are likely to support the local government agencies, with little chance of retrieving it. As a result, we advise you to act fast and get in touch with an asset forfeiture attorney who can assist in preventing the property forfeiture.
Alternatively, the federal and state agencies may opt for an equitable division of the seized property, where both parties benefit equally from your property. In this case, the federal government obtains access to your seized assets primarily because the law enforcement officers were involved in the investigation process.
Often, the local and federal agencies will collaborate in your arrest and subsequent investigations. The additional help from the federal agencies is especially useful if your offense involved complicated activities throughout different states. If so, the state agencies may request the federal department to engage in the adoption of your property.
Converting your property for the law enforcement agencies’ benefit will begin soon after the assets are seized. As a result, your attorney should be ready to file an objection in court and prepare for the possible defenses to use during the court hearing process.
Procedures that Guide Property Forfeiture in Federal Cases
As discussed, involvement in a federal offense invites a lot of investigation and follow-ups on the circumstances of your case. Eventually, you will face a conviction for the specific crime you committed and will deal with the penalties that include property forfeiture. Nevertheless, the forfeiture process must follow a specific procedure to avoid arbitrary methods that violate your rights.
Learning the correct procedure that law enforcement agencies should observe is beneficial. From the details, you can lodge any complaints or use defenses based on the unfair process you faced. The presiding judge may then grant your objection request and have you retrieve the seized property. The three main processes to be observed are:
Confirmation of Facing a Conviction for the Charged Federal Offense
Firstly, the prosecutor or government agency overseeing the property forfeiture must establish that you received a guilty verdict during a criminal trial. Thus, you must have been already convicted for the charged offense, meaning that asset forfeiture is among the penalties that the judge issued.
To make a valid confirmation of your conviction, the prosecutor can easily access your file from the department of justice and confirm your case reference number. Sometimes, the prosecutor intending to initiate forfeiture of your property may not be the same person who presented the criminal charges against you. Hence, the current prosecutor may contact the court clerks who hold the necessary conviction records.
The main importance of obtaining your conviction records is to show that the property forfeiture is legal, and was instructed by the criminal court judge. Without proof of having faced penalties for the criminal offense, the prosecutor lacks sufficient reason to obtain your property.
The restrictive principle should apply even when your current criminal case for the charged federal offense is ongoing. It is immaterial that the prosecutor already has overwhelming evidence to prove that you own property from illegal activities. Ultimately, the judge or jury appointed to your case must provide the conviction outcome for the prosecutor to initiate the seizure of property.
On top of this, the law enforcement agencies in charge of property forfeiture must determine that the federal crime you were convicted of provides for property forfeiture. Based on this requirement, the agencies should go over the charges you face and confirm that you can lose property from your involvement.
Drug trafficking is among the most common federal crimes that warrant property forfeiture. Typically, when the judge finds you guilty of the offense, you will have accumulated money, houses, or any other forms of property from the unlawful operations. You should note that any property related to the drug trafficking syndicate will be seized unless you can prove that you did not acquire or use it during the trafficking.
Similarly, any property obtained from infringement of copyright rules will be recovered by the government through law enforcement agencies. Infringement of copyrights may include illegal duplication and distribution of intellectual property creations. For example, if you have generated a lot of wealth from running a movie pirating scheme, any money or assets bought from the illegal products is forfeited.
Engagement in money laundering is another serious offense that involves the unlawful channeling of illegally obtained money into different accounts. The crime often includes opening businesses or organizations to mask the source of your money, hoping to avoid scrutiny from revenue bodies and investigative officers.
For example, if you have generated a lot of money from human trafficking, you could open a modest hotel business to try and ‘legitimize’ the source of your funds. You will be guilty of money laundering because you create a false image of running a lawful establishment, while your real source of income comes from human trafficking. Consequently, any property you acquire through money laundering is eligible for forfeiture.
Involvement in gang activities also amounts to a federal crime if your operations were spread in different states. Most organized crimes include obtaining property illegally through armed robberies, carjacking, and kidnapping victims. Therefore, property forfeiture is among the commonly imposed penalties if convicted of organized gang crimes.
Identification of the Property to be Forfeited
Moreover, the prosecutor should endeavor to correctly identify the property to be seized. Through proper identification, law enforcement agencies avoid oversights in the operation. Usually, the guidelines in identifying property should come from the investigation details.
For example, if the investigating officers found documents that prove you received money from drug trafficking, they can identify the exact sum and seize it from your accounts. If you have the cash, the law enforcement officers will have a right to obtain a warrant and raid your house for the money.
Regardless of the property to be seized, the prosecutor should demonstrate that it was directly linked to the federal crime you committed. Therefore, he/she should produce documents that show the rationale behind singling out your property.
Showing that the Seized Property is Linked to Illegal Activities
Additionally, law enforcement agencies cannot seize your property before the prosecutor proves that you obtained it or used it to commit a federal offense. As a result, the prosecutor should be ready to prove three elements related to the property, depending on the case circumstances.
Sometimes, he/she may have to prove these three elements at the same time, especially if you have engaged in criminal activities over a long time. The extended indulgence in federal offenses means that you will have accumulated a lot of property.
Firstly, the prosecutor may prove that you obtained the property to be seized from engaging in criminal behavior. The targeted property, in this case, will be any proceeds of crime, including cars, houses, business establishments, and liquid funds. Hence, the prosecutor should prove that you afforded the acquisition of property from the money you earned after committing a federal offense.
For example, you will lose your fleet of vehicles if the money used to purchase them came from distributing child pornography online. You should note that the prosecutor must prove a direct link between acquiring the property from illegally obtained funds. Thus, your attorney can object if you used a car loan to obtain your vehicle, contrary to the prosecutor’s findings.
Secondly, the prosecutor can also show that you acquired the property directly from the federal crime. The difference between the first scenario and this instance is that in this case, the property you hold should not belong to you. For example, obtaining large sums of money through extortion or blackmail is unlawful, as you will have used force and threats to obtain it.
Thirdly, the prosecutor can also justify property forfeiture by proving that you used the property to engage in a federal crime. Contrary to the first scenario, the property to be seized acts as your resources in enabling crime. For example, if you owned an apartment complex where trafficked victims were forced into prostitution, the apartments can be seized.
The main goal for the prosecutor is to show that you have property rights in the targeted assets, meaning that you have full control over them to perpetuate your criminal activities. However, the prosecutor may encounter challenges if you own the property under a lien or through co-ownership.
For instance, if you took out a mortgage to acquire the apartment complex used for prostitution, your lender is involved in the forfeiture process. Nevertheless, the difficulty in distinguishing the rightful owner can work for your benefit, because the mortgagor can join you in raising objections towards seizing the property.
How Your Attorney Can Help Stop the Property Forfeiture Process
When you learn of an impending property forfeiture process, you will require the services of a qualified attorney. He/she understands the different processes that the court undertakes before issuing approval for the procedure to begin. Thus, your lawyer will be well equipped to follow the court proceedings and present defenses on your behalf for a good chance of stopping the process.
Before your attorney can move to court, the prosecutor will present information on the identified property. The identification should help you and any person with interests in the property to prepare for objections against the forfeiture.
Afterward, the prosecutor requests a preliminary order from a judge, which authorizes law enforcement agencies to begin the process. However, since the order is preliminary, you still have a chance to object to it by filing the necessary documents on time. If you do not act promptly, the agencies will proceed and eventually seize your property.
The local law enforcement agency overseeing the forfeiture process must also post an official notice of the intended property seizure. Doing so is imperative, as it enables third parties to receive the notice and take appropriate steps towards stopping the forfeiture. Third parties include any co-owners, mortgagors, or spouses with property interests in the targeted assets.
Once you present your objections, the court may hold a proceeding to determine the outcome. Your attorney can present several defenses or justifications on why you should retain your property during these proceedings. On the other hand, the prosecutor will also justify the need for property forfeiture, based on the federal crime you committed.
Subsequently, we recommend working closely with your attorney to determine the most suitable strategies in objecting to the property forfeiture. If you are successful in presenting your case, the judge will allow you to retain the property despite having faced a conviction. Conversely, a failure to present credible reasons for objection will result in the government agencies seizing your property.
Contact an Asset Forfeiture Attorney Near Me
When you face trial for committing a federal crime, you risk losing your freedom and property through property forfeiture. While the seizure of illegally obtained property is justified, you deserve a chance to fight for your assets and retain ownership. Doing so will protect you and your loved ones from hardships like homelessness and insufficient funds for daily needs. Thus, you want to put the best effort into recovering your property from forfeiture by working with a highly experienced asset forfeiture attorney. Thanks to his/her services, you can present objections in court and raise defenses on why you should retain your property. If successful, the forfeiture will cease, so you and your loved ones can continue benefiting from the property.
At Asset Forfeiture Attorney, you will receive the best legal assistance in recovering your forfeited property. Our attorneys work relentlessly to provide clients the best opportunity in recovering seized property. Moreover, we are ready to provide support in other related matters to increase the chances of success in your objection. If you require the services of an asset forfeiture attorney in California or any part of the country, contact us today at 888-571-5590.