Asset forfeiture is a method used to recover the proceeds of what is believed to be a crime. When used in stand-alone civil cases, the allegations may be established by a preponderance of the evidence (essentially, that it is more likely that an act occurred than that it did not), as opposed to beyond a reasonable doubt (the burden of proof in criminal proceedings).
Criminal asset forfeiture is generally achieved through a sentence following a conviction, and is used as a punitive act against the defendant. However, almost all forfeiture cases carried out today are civil, and they can take as long as three years. The United States Government sues the item of property and not the person; the owner is in effect a third party claimant. You do not have to be found guilty of anything for your assets to be forfeited, and under Bennis v. Michigan, your property may be taken away if it is used to further a crime, even without your knowledge or consent.
Not surprisingly, this has given rise to some controversy. As there is no requirement to prove that a crime has been committed or that the owner of the property committed the crime that may or may not have been committed, it has become troublingly easy for prosecutors to forfeit properties because in all likelihood it would cost the owner as much to recover the property as it is worth.
The United States Marshals Service disposes of property seized and forfeited by the Department of Justice, and the United States Treasury Department is responsible for managing properties seized by Treasury agencies. Proceeds for the sale of such property are supposedly used for law enforcement purposes.
Asset forfeiture can result when the prosecuting agent believes violations of the following natures have occurred:
Antitrust: Conspiracy in restraint of trade and trust in restraint of import trade;
Banking: Bank Fraud; concealment of assets; Equity Skimming; false or fraudulent statements; giving or receiving a commission or gift for procuring a loan; Money Laundering; theft, Embezzlement, or misapplication; structuring transactions to avoid financial transaction reporting requirements or otherwise violating reporting requirements; and,
Bankruptcy: Bankruptcy Fraud and concealment of assets, false oath, false claim, or bribery.
Complaints have been made that law enforcement officers seized assets under the pretext for forfeiture, but instead kept the property for themselves without ever reporting the pretextual seizure. Hundreds of thousands of American citizens have been victimized by civil forfeiture. There is even a U.S. anti-forfeiture activist organization.
Are you facing possible asset forfeiture based on mere accusation? Convincing the government to return property often involves documenting how the money was earned to make the purchase; you also have the burden to prove that no illegal act involving the property was ever committed.
These can be daunting tasks without the support of the right legal defense team. Commercial litigators at The Blanch Law Firm has the resources and expertise to establish the innocence of both you as well as your property. Contact one of our experienced attorneys by calling 8212-736-3900. Your initial consultation is free and confidential.