Tampa Asset Forfeiture Lawyer
Seizing people’s assets is big business for the federal government. Ever since the first laws were passed authorizing government agencies to seize and forfeit property as part of their law enforcement capabilities, this practice has grown bigger every year. Now, billions of dollars in private property are taken annually by the DEA, ATF, IRS and other federal agencies. Depending on the forfeiture law they use, these agencies don’t need to secure a criminal conviction before taking your property. In some cases, they don’t even need to file charges first!
Don’t let the government take your valuable property without a fight. Get an attorney who knows the law and who will defend you and your property in court. In Tampa, call Scriven Law, P.A., to secure the help of a former prosecutor with thousands of cases under his belt. Tampa asset forfeiture lawyer Bryant Scriven knows federal criminal law and will defend you and help you keep your valuable property from being seized and forfeited by the federal government.
When Can the Government Seize Private Property?
Asset forfeiture laws can be found in numerous places throughout the U.S. Code. The laws may differ from offense to offense or agency to agency, but, in general, government authority to seize property and subject it to forfeiture is limited to three broad areas:
The government can seize property that was used to facilitate a crime. If a truck or boat was used to transport drugs or a vehicle was used as a getaway car from a bank robbery, the government could argue these assets were instrumental to the crime or made it easier to commit.
Federal agencies can seize property that was used to hide a criminal act. The government could seize anything from a computer used to manipulate financial records to a warehouse used to conceal stolen goods.
The government can seize assets that are the proceeds of a crime or assets that were acquired with criminal proceeds. Under this authority, federal agents could take houses, jewelry, art, vehicles, cash and bank accounts.
Types of Asset Forfeiture Proceedings
Federal asset forfeiture proceedings can be judicial or administrative. Judicial proceedings are further divided into either civil or criminal proceedings.
Civil Asset Forfeiture – Strange as it may seem, a civil forfeiture action is brought directly against the property itself, leading to odd case names in court like Nebraska v. One 1970 2-Door Sedan Rambler (Gremlin) or United States v. Article Consisting of 50,000 Cardboard Boxes More or Less, Each Containing One Pair of Clacker Balls. For civil forfeiture, it doesn’t matter if the property owner was convicted of a crime or even charged with any offense. The government only has to prove some connection between the property and a crime, such as proving the property is the proceeds of a crime or traceable to criminal proceeds, the property made the crime easier to commit, or the property is connected with a money-laundering scheme. The government’s burden of proof in a civil case is “preponderance of evidence” which is a much lower standard and easier to prove than the burden of proof in criminal cases – proving guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Criminal Asset Forfeiture – A criminal judicial forfeiture proceeding occurs in conjunction with a criminal prosecution. Separate indictments are filed against the defendant for the alleged offense as well as the property which was allegedly involved in the crime or derived as proceeds of the crime. If the defendant’s case results in a conviction, the court then moves on to decide if the property should be subject to forfeit.
Administrative Asset Forfeiture – U.S. government agencies, under the auspices of the Tariff Act of 1930, are empowered to seize and forfeit the following types of property:
- Any merchandise illegally imported
- Any conveyance, such as a vessel, aircraft or truck, which was used to import, transport or store a controlled substance
- Any money instrument, such as checks, cash or stocks and bonds
- Other property up to $500,000 in worth
Although this proceeding is done administratively within the agency (FBI, DOJ, DEA, ATF, etc.), the agency must still have probable cause to seize the property. Further, the property owner can file a claim with the agency, which stops the administrative forfeiture. At this point, the agency has to either give back the property to the owner or bring a judicial forfeiture action in court.
Help With Asset Forfeiture and Criminal Defense in Tampa
The Constitution protects private property rights and protects the rights of individuals accused of a crime. You have the right to defend yourself and your property, and a criminal defense attorney versed in federal criminal law can help you with both. If you’ve been arrested in Tampa and had your property seized as well, call Scriven Law, P.A., at 813-226-8522 for thoughtful and effective representation from an experienced Tampa asset forfeiture lawyer.