Asset Forfeiture Lawyers
Many people mistakenly think that the government can use asset forfeiture against you if you have been convicted of a crime. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The Federal Government can seize assets or money that you earned legally. Situations like this actually happen on a regular basis in the USA. The Government oversteps its bounds and seizes your assets even though you haven’t committed a crime!
What do you if this happens to you? How do you get your property and your money back? If you’re facing a situation like this, there are steps you need to take. Hiring a criminal defense lawyer who specializes in federal asset forfeiture should be number one.
At Tarlton Polk Law, our defense lawyers have the skills and experience needed to protect your property rights. We help people fight back against unfair asset seizures and forfeitures. If the federal government is seeking forfeiture or has seized your property, you need to take immediate action. Please contact our law firm today for assistance.
What is Asset Forfeiture?
The United States Constitution guarantees our basic rights. Nobody can take your life, liberty, or property without due process of law. At the same time, the federal government also has vast power to seize assets. If you obtain money or property through the government may attempt to seize those assets.
Many people don’t realize that the federal government can even seek asset forfeiture without filing charges. Unfortunately, in many cases, the government is far too aggressive in using its asset forfeiture power. They seize property when they have no legitimate legal basis to do so.
When Can the Federal Government Seize Assets?
Asset forfeitures come in two main forms: criminal forfeiture and civil forfeiture. Generally, a criminal forfeiture happens when there are criminal charges or a conviction against the property owner, and there is a strong connection between the property and criminal activity. A civil forfeiture is guided by lower standards of proof and the charges are often brought against the property itself, rather than the owner. Regardless of the type, the government must show valid cause to seize property. To be clear, no criminal conviction is necessary for the federal government to seize assets. In fact, there is no actual requirement that criminal charges are ever even filed.
However, the federal government must be able to prove that the property in question has a relationship to illegal activity. In practice, this could come in many different forms. For example, they can seize profits from the sale of illegal drug. Likewise, property used in connection to carry out a crime is eligible for asset forfeiture.
How North Carolina Handles Asset Forfeiture
The state of North Carolina does not pursue civil asset forfeiture on their own, except in racketeering cases, which are not very common. In essence, property linked to a crime in North Carolina is only subject to forfeiture after the owner of that property has been convicted of the associated crime.
While this may seem like civil asset forfeiture is not cause for much concern in North Carolina, there is a way law enforcement can bypass these protections put in place. This is done through the Federal Equitable Sharing Program (FESP). This program, administered through the U.S Department of Justice and Treasury, allow North Carolina law enforcement agencies to work with a federal agency and seize assets, which both agencies receive a share of proceeds from assets seized. Typically, this means both a federal and local/state agency participate in the actual investigation and share proceeds, but this is not always the case. There is a form of equitable sharing known as adoption, which allows state law enforcement to conduct an investigation without federal involvement, but must turn seized assets into a federal agency. Those assets would then be processed under federal civil asset forfeiture laws, but the bulk of the proceeds are still returned to the state agency. Essentially, adoption just serves the purpose of bypassing North Carolina’s statutes that protect people from civil asset forfeiture. This makes civil asset forfeiture in North Carolina far more complicated than it should be, and ripe for abuse from law enforcement, which is why it is essential to hire legal representation from experienced attorneys.
How Do We Defend Against Asset Forfeiture?
If you are facing a civil or criminal asset forfeiture from the federal government, you need to be proactive. There are several different legal defenses you can use to challenge this type of government action. Some of the most common examples include:
- Lack of Probable Cause: The federal government must have valid probable cause to seize property. There must be a reasonable basis established to connect the property in question to underlying illegal activity.
- Proof the property is legitimate: The federal government may claim that you (or someone else) obtained your property unlawfully. You can produce evidence proving that you or someone else obtained the property legally.
- The innocent owner defense: The federal government cannot seize property from an owner who has no reasonable basis to believe that their assets were unlawfully obtained. You are not responsible for the bad actions of another party.
- Disproportionate seizure: In some cases, the federal government may have valid cause to seize assets but may be abusing their authority to do so. Asset forfeitures must be proportional to the underlying offense.
Contact Our Asset Forfeiture Defense Lawyers Today
At Tarlton | Polk, our North Carolina defense lawyers have extensive experience handling federal assets forfeiture cases. If you believe that your money or property was unlawfully seized, we can help. Please contact our law firm today to set up a fully confidential review of your case. From our office in Raleigh, we represent clients throughout the region, including in Durham County, Johnston County, Wake County and more.