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Federal Civil Forfeiture Defense Lawyers

Fighting Federal Civil Forfeiture: How to Get Your Property Back

Law enforcement uses the tool of asset seizure for the purpose of denying criminals the ability to profit from their crimes, but sometimes, it also affects innocent people. Having your property returned to you can be a difficult thing to accomplish, but it isn’t impossible.

Civil Judicial Forfeiture

Rather than focus on a person, law enforcement officials focus on the person’s property in a civil judicial forfeiture. This property is alleged to have been the proceeds from some criminal activity. It may also be money that funds the criminal activity.

In a case, the plaintiff is going to be the federal government, and the defendant will be the property that was seized. Law enforcement chooses to charge property with the crime rather than the people because this strategy allows them to file charges against property that they would not be able to charge in criminal court. This applies to the property that belongs to terrorists and fugitives located outside of the United States. Law enforcement officials also use federal civil forfeiture to recover assets of deceased individuals.

Federal Civil Forfeiture Defenses

The Money Laundering Act of 1986 makes it illegal to use money that was derived from illegal activity to purchase items with the purpose of disguising the origins of the money. According to the currency transaction reporting requirements, your financial institution is required to file a report with the federal government when you make financial transactions worth more than $10,000. Doing anything to avoid this violates the Money Laundering Act of 1986. This is also illegal if the purpose is to avoid having to comply with state or federal currency transaction reporting requirements.

The government must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the money in question is derived from specific illegal activity. If you are accused of laundering the money or intentionally avoiding currency transaction reporting requirements, the government must show evidence of these actions by you. If it cannot do that, the government’s claim on your cash or assets will fail in a court of law.

Defending against a Federal Civil Forfeiture

The federal government must meet the legal standard of the “balance of probabilities.” The federal government only needs to demonstrate that there is sufficient evidence to prove that the money or assets in question were the result of illegal activity or used in the illegal activity. This standard is much lower than the one used in criminal cases. Your attorney will need to present evidence that shows that the property was not derived from illegal activity or was not purchased with money derived from a crime. Examples of this type of evidence include contracts and other documentation.

The Affirmative Defense

With an affirmative defense, your attorney will introduce evidence that disproves that you were involved in criminal activity. Your property may be returned to you even though it can be proven that the property was involved in criminal activity. This affirmative defense would require you to prove that you were unaware of the illegal activity that occurred.

The Eighth Amendment of The Constitution

The Eighth Amendment of The Constitution relieves you of the possibility of receiving excessive fines in a criminal case. Your attorney may be able to prove that the confiscated property is commensurate of an excessive fine and would be unconstitutional.

Fighting Federal Civil Forfeiture

The most important thing you can do when your property has been confiscated by law enforcement is hire a criminal defense law firm. Most people fail to do this because they wrongly believe that there is nothing that they can do to get their property back. It may be difficult to do, but it is possible when you hire a criminal defense attorney.

You must file a claim to have your property returned to you. After you file your claim, the federal government only has three months to file a complaint in federal court or charge you with a federal crime. It’s very possible that three months will not be enough time for the law enforcement agency to pursue either of these options. If the federal government has not taken any action by the time the three-month window closes, the agency must return your property to you.

In most cases, federal civil forfeiture ends with filing a claim for the property. However, it is possible that you may need to continue this matter in federal court, and the best way to do this is with a criminal defense attorney.

Contact a criminal defense law firm today if your property was seized by the federal government. The experienced attorneys at Spodek Law Group can help you navigate the complex legal process and fight to get your property back.

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