Asset Forfeiture Defense
Laws allowing forfeiture of assets as part of a criminal prosecution – or even without any criminal proceeding at all – are sprinkled throughout the United States Code. The popularity of these programs has grown so much that between $1 and $2 billion worth of property (and in some years more than twice that amount) are seized and forfeited every year. Property can be seized upon arrest and then forfeited as part of a criminal prosecution, in civil courtroom proceedings, or administratively.
Learn more below about the different tools the government has at its disposal to take private property. To prevent your own assets from being forfeited, call attorney Bruce E. Reinhart in West Palm Beach for strong, effective representation in any asset forfeiture proceeding.
U.S. Asset Forfeiture Laws
Federal laws allow many different federal agencies (FBI, ATF, DEA, DOJ) to seize property and initiate forfeiture proceedings whenever they can prove that the property is proceeds of a crime or was bought with criminal proceeds, was used to facilitate a crime or was used to make a crime easier to commit or harder to detect. Individuals and businesses may find their high-end vehicles or currency, or even whole office buildings, seized and forfeited by the government.
Government agencies may initiate forfeiture proceedings in the following ways:
Criminal Judicial Forfeiture – This type of forfeiture is brought as part of a criminal prosecution. The defendant is indicted, and a separate indictment is brought against the property supposedly used in or derived from the crime. If the defendant is convicted, the judge or jury will decide of whether the property is forfeitable.
Civil Judicial Forfeiture – This action is brought solely against the property. The owner of the property does not need to be convicted of a crime first; in fact, there does not even have to be a criminal charge against the property owner at all.
The government need only prove a connection between the property and a crime by a preponderance of the evidence, which is the low burden of proof used in most civil proceedings. Property is subject to forfeiture if it is traceable as proceeds from a crime, if the property facilitated commission of a crime, or if the property was involved in money laundering.
Administrative Forfeiture – This type of forfeiture does not require any judicial involvement at all. Under the authority of the Tariff Act of 1930, a government agency may seize and forfeit: illegally imported merchandise; a conveyance (truck, aircraft, vessel) used to import, transport or store a controlled substance; a monetary instrument (cash, checks, stocks, bonds); or other property (jewelry, guns, cars, boats) worth up to $500,000 in value.
The agency must have probable cause, and the forfeiture can be stopped by the property owner filing a claim. This move forces the government to either return the property or bring a forfeiture action in federal court.
Help is Available to Stop Asset Forfeiture
Attorney Bruce E. Reinhart is a former federal prosecutor and long-time criminal defense attorney who is experienced in asset forfeiture proceedings. In one recent case, Mr. Reinhart represented a Fortune 500 finance company in civil and criminal asset forfeiture proceedings and recovered over $1 million dollars in seized assets. If your property has been seized and made subject to criminal, civil or administrative forfeiture, contact Bruce E. Reinhart, P.A., at 561-429-8401 for practical legal advice and effective representation.