Imagine the following scenario: you get charged with a crime while you are innocent. The prosecuting attorney dismisses those charges, and you thank the universe for its blessings. A couple of days later, you learn the unbelievable: your vehicle or, even worse, your home has been seized by the government. You lose your home, car, and even your bank account.

Sounds familiar? This is how you become the innocent victim of asset forfeiture.

If this has never happened to you, you need to understand that this can happen to anyone. Irrespective of whether you are innocent or not. Usually, such cases are challenged and taken up by an Asset Forfeiture Lawyer.

Read on to learn more about everything related to asset forfeiture.

What exactly is Asset Forfeiture?

Asset forfeiture refers to a legal tool that allows the government and law officials to get hold of your property. Typically, such a seizure of property comes into effect after it is asserted that it has been part of some sort of criminal activity. In most case scenarios, the property owners are not even part of the crime. The proceedings of asset forfeiture are involved with charging the property regarding its involvement in the crime. This means that law officials can get hold of your car, house, bank account, and other valuables without charging you for a crime as a guilty person. Such incidents occur every day where hundreds of people get stripped off their valuables by law enforcement despite being innocent.

What are the Causes of Asset Forfeiture?

Typically, asset forfeiture is carried out by law enforcement officials and the government as a useful tool to capture criminal organizations, such as drug dealers. The root of civil asset forfeiture can be found deeply entwined within common law. However, modern civil asset forfeiture allows law enforcement officials to capture illicit properties gained by criminals. Sometimes, the property seized from innocent criminals serves as a platform to capture and fight off other criminals. The dark side of civil asset forfeiture is that sometimes law enforcement officials use it to procreate revenue by wrongly targeting innocent victims.

What if you are not a Criminal?

If you are thinking that you can never fall victim to asset forfeiture. And that you have never been involved in criminal activities, then you are wrong. There have been numerous incidents until now in which innocent people have been stripped off their property and other valuables. Such experiences were particularly common during the years of 2006 and 2008 in Texas. Texas's law enforcement officials routinely indulged in a systematic approach to asset forfeiture while targeting innocent victims and stripping them off their cash without giving due evidence. Not only Texas, but Detroit was also targeted with asset forfeiture where police officials routinely seized the cars from innocent drivers and car owners. Their only fault was that they were members of an art event that has failed to display a liquor license. The purpose of re-telling these events is that you might be totally innocent but still become a victim of asset forfeiture.

How to Prove Your Innocence?

It is essential to know that your innocence regarding asset forfeiture will not really matter to the law officials and the government. In fact, the United States does not constitutionally require the defense of an innocent owner. This means that the entire burden of proving your innocence is on you. What you can do about it is simple. All you need is an experienced asset forfeiture lawyer who will help you challenge the government and law officials. The asset forfeiture attorney will also ensure that you regain your property by proving your innocence to the court.

Your property and valuable item will remain within governmental control until and unless you prove your innocence. You have to prove that you played no part in whatsoever criminal activity. Therefore, your property, car, money, and other valuable items should not be forfeited. With the help of an experienced asset forfeiture attorney, you will prove that you have not been involved in any criminal activity. And that you were oblivious to the fact that your property was being used for any unlawful purposes. If this had been within your knowledge, you would have taken drastic measures to stop it. This includes police officials' involvement to terminate the unlawful use of your property and other valuable items.

Typically, the rate of success regarding the regaining of one’s property is deemed as low. Usually, property owners reason that under given circumstances, the best action to take would be to cut one’s losses rather than taking the matter to court. However, experienced forfeit lawyers are specifically trained to take up such a case of their innocent clients and regain their property.

It does not matter in whichever state you are residing in. You can be a victim of civil asset forfeiture. There might be states and regions with specific laws that have a delimiting impact on asset forfeiture. Nonetheless, law enforcement officials can still get hold of your property. Despite law limitations, local police can partner up with federal law officials and proceed with civil asset forfeiture. This kind of systematic partnership is known as equitable sharing.

Is Going to the Court Mandatory?

The importance of hiring an asset forfeiture lawyer cannot be stressed enough. After a certain period has passed, the majority of civil asset confiscation exhibits automatic property forfeiture. This happens due to the lack of a challenge from the victim and his/her lawyer. That being said, serious questions are continuously being raised regarding the fairness of the asset forfeiture process. Suppose you ever become a victim of asset forfeiture. In that case, you should not expect from the government or law officials to return your property even when you are innocent. It is crucial to understand the importance of hiring an asset forfeiture lawyer right away. They will analyze your case and develop the perfect defense since they are familiar with the complex laws related to civil asset forfeiture.

What are the Various Types of Asset Forfeiture?

There are three types of asset forfeiture:

Criminal Asset Forfeiture: this type of asset forfeiture is directly connected with the defendant's criminal charge and subsequent arrest. The criminal asset forfeiture requires the law officials and the government to charge the defendant and the property used for the specific crime.

Civil Asset Forfeiture: this type of asset forfeiture does not require a criminal charge on the owner. This type of forfeiture is the outcome of illegal activity on or concerning the property and valuable asset. Hence, this type of asset forfeiture is charged against the forfeited property itself. It does not take the innocence of the owner into account.

Administrative Asset Forfeiture: this type of asset forfeiture is controlled by the government alone by seizing the assets. The asset owners do not challenge this type of asset forfeiture. According to state laws, asset forfeiture cannot exceed the worth price of $500 thousand. Furthermore, suppose the owners of the valuable assets proceed with challenging the forfeiture. In that case, the government has to switch to civil or criminal asset forfeiture to proceed with the administrative asset forfeiture.

How to Fight the Different Types of Asset Forfeiture

Civil Asset Forfeiture: as mentioned earlier, the civil asset forfeiture does not require any criminal charge against the owner. This type of asset forfeiture is directly charged against the owner’s property rather than the owner(s). Since the owner is not criminally charged, the government decides to take a civil action to seize and confiscate a specific item only. The government's decision is derived from its strength of evidence that the confiscated property is related to criminal activity.

As compared to criminal asset forfeiture, the civil asset forfeiture relieves the government from the burden to prove the owner's guilt. This type of responsibility is much lower in the case of civil asset forfeiture. It is essential to know that the slightest connection between the property and a criminal action can suffice for the property to get seized in case of civil asset forfeiture.

If you have experienced civil asset forfeiture, you will need an asset forfeiture lawyer. Their expertise will help you deal with the complex legal barriers and deadlines that you cannot miss. If you receive the first notice, you will have to react swiftly. Typically, you will be given a month to challenge the civil asset forfeiture. However, it is advised to never wait for the notice but to proceed with the legal contest against the asset forfeiture straight away.

Criminal Asset Forfeiture: in this type of forfeiture, the property is being seized as an additional criminal charge action against you. It is recommended to take advantage of your right to remain silent while asking for the best lawyer in town. An asset forfeiture lawyer is the best option for you. Lawyers are aware of all the complexities related to law. They can help you defend against the crime in the best possible way.

Author's Bio: 

Success Coach, Business Development Consultant, Strategist, Blogger, Traveller, Motivational Writer & Speaker