As if getting arrested for criminal charges isn’t bad enough, sometimes after you are arrested, the government will swoop in and try to keep your property. This action is known as a Seizure or Asset Forfeiture. This process takes place in civil court and often includes items such as:
- Property (real estate)
Asset Forfeiture law provides some protections for property owners but it really gives police agencies a huge incentive to essentially “Police for Profit”. What this means is that police officers will conduct an arrest for the sole purpose of establishing probable cause to seize property. The criminal case may be dropped, but the property will be seized simply because the defendant did not know how to properly fight back.
The government has to prove their case through clear and convincing evidence that the seized property was sufficiently related to criminal activity. Without sufficient evidence that the property was obtained by or used during criminal activity, the property cannot be forfeited. Click here to read the Forfeiture Statute.
The government will decide early on whether they will begin asset forfeiture proceedings. Depending on your charges, the agency responsible for handling the asset forfeiture procedure could be either state or federal. On the state level, asset forfeiture cases are handled by the city attorney for whichever city you were arrested in. If the agency is federal, we are going to deal with the Department of Justice in United States District Court.
The Asset Forfeiture Process
When the government files an asset forfeiture claim, it is important that you respond within the appropriate time frame. Hiring an attorney immediately after you are served with forfeiture paperwork can be the difference between keeping your property and losing it forever.
Once the government has put you on notice that you have retained an attorney and you are seeking to have your items returned to you, the case has really begun. There is a discovery process whereby the government will send us copies of the evidence they have in their possession which gives them the right to keep your property. We take the time to review these materials with you and weigh the strengths and weaknesses of the government’s case.
During the discovery process we look for ways to poke holes in the government’s case. We look at issues of whether the government properly seized the items, whether the government followed the statutory rules for initiating a forfeiture action, whether there were any criminal charges filed, whether there is sufficient nexus between the criminal activity alleged and the property allegedly used. Many times we are able to negotiate a settlement agreement with the government on asset forfeiture cases. The government is sometimes willing to accept a small payment in exchange for return of the property. After all, the reason they are seeking to keep the property in the first place is so that they can use it or more likely, to sell it. By cutting out a lot of the time and money spent on litigating the case in court, the government will usually come around and settle for a small cost. Other times, the government will not be willing to negotiate. It is in these situations that having an experienced trial attorney at your side will make all the difference in your case.
Contact a Broward County, Miami, and Palm Beach Asset Forfeiture Attorney
The Office of Dell & Schaefer has been representing clients since 1979. Lead Attorney Grant Schwarz is rated as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by National Trial Lawyers, and ready to take your case on and start fighting to defend your property rights today for any type of asset forfeiture case. Contact the office of Dell & Schaefer if you or someone you know has been charged with a Florida Theft Crime. The government will aggressively fight to keep your property so they may use it or sell it. Aggressive government agencies need to be met by an equally aggressive and knowledgeable attorney.