The asset forfeiture program was started more than 30 years ago. It was originally intended to be a way to combat the international drug trade that was occurring in the 1980’s. Since its inception, however, this program has been expanded to address white-collar crime, drug cartels, cybercrimes and more. You can lose your property or your money even if you are innocent. Because asset forfeiture is considered a civil penalty those who have their assets seized are offered even fewer protections from the law—one such right that a person would not have is the right to an attorney.
In California asset forfeiture is really common. One reason suggested for this is that police and law enforcement departments are allowed to keep a part of the proceeds—California allows police departments to keep around 65% of the forfeiture proceeds. This can create an additional reason for officers to take more than they need to in the course of an investigation.
California has something known as “equitable sharing laws” which allow the state police to turn over assets seized to the federal government—the federal laws are much more strict and the two agencies get to split the profits of whatever they have seized. Federal forfeiture laws are covered in 18 U.S.C. §983.
What Can be Seized?
Asset forfeiture allows law enforcement to be able to seize money and property that belong to criminals. Law enforcement officials can also seize weapons, computers, animals, vehicles and more. If there is a drug crime in question then almost anything can be seized. In these cases officers can seize not only the aforementioned properties but also allows law enforcement officers to take money that they find at the scene. These officers can also ask the courts to freeze the accused’s bank accounts so that they cannot profit off of money that they are believed to have obtained illegally.
Federally, there is usually a written notice that is required as soon as possible before the federal government can seize your property. This notice is usually sent no more than 60 days after a seizure, but a court can extend it by 60-day increments so long as law enforcement can show that there is a threat to someone’s life, there may be evidence destroyed or witnesses intimidated as a direct result of the notice. When the federal government seizes assets they have to report to a Committee in the House of Representatives and the Senate. If no notice is given then the government must release the property back to the individual.
In order to get your property back, there is a form that can be filled out and submitted to the government but there is a strict 30-day deadline in which the claim must be filed.
Do I Need an Attorney?
An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to guide you both in state and federal courts can help you get your seized property back and prevent the government from overstepping and violating your rights.
If your assets or bank accounts have been seized, it is crucial that you find a skilled lawyer as soon as possible. With 20 years of experience representing people charged with serious crimes, attorney Karren Kenney has the knowledge to energetically defend your case. Based in Costa Mesa, the dedicated team at the Kenney Legal Defense Corporation assists individuals throughout Southern California, from Irvine to Los Angeles. Call (855) 505-5588 or contact us online for an initial consultation at no cost to you.