Ask a White-Collar Crime Lawyer: What Is Forfeiture?

Ask a White-Collar Crime Lawyer

Did you know that the government can seize your property if they suspect that it has been involved in a crime, even if you haven’t been convicted yet? Forfeiture is a process that involves the seizure of your home, vehicle, valuables, or money due to illegal activity. If you’ve been accused of a crime or you believe that your assets might get taken away, speak to a white-collar crime lawyer to find out how you can defend yourself.

Ask a White-Collar Crime Lawyer: What Is Forfeiture?

Forfeiture occurs when you lose your property because you defaulted on your obligations or you broke the law. For example, a person might use a cash-based business such as a restaurant as a tool to launder illegal money. When they get discovered, the authorities can seize the restaurant and any other assets associated with the crime.

Forfeiture is often mandated by law if someone conducted illegal or prohibited activity. This process often involves the court of law, and the proceedings might be civil or criminal.

Civil Forfeiture

The government has the right to seize the property of people who are suspected of committing a crime. The purpose of civil forfeiture is to facilitate the prosecution of criminals and to fight organized crime. When the government seizes assets, including buildings, cash, and other property, the financial base of criminal operations is destroyed, and they are less likely to continue. Proceeds from criminal activity can also be seized.

Civil forfeiture can be a nightmare because the evidence simply has to be “clear and convincing” instead of “beyond any reasonable doubt.” Your assets might be seized even if you weren’t involved in the crime, as long as the property was in some way connected to illegal activity. To defend their rights, people facing civil forfeiture must seek out a highly experienced lawyer as soon as possible.

Criminal Forfeiture

Criminal forfeiture is similar to civil forfeiture because the property of the defendant is taken away. However, in this case, forfeiture only happens after the person has been convicted of the crime, and it forms a part of the punishment. For example, money that was obtained in a fraudulent way can be taken away after the perpetrator has been arrested.

For criminal forfeiture to be legal, certain conditions have to be fulfilled. The property must have either been used during the commission of a crime, or it must have been obtained as a result of criminal activities. Any assets that were not involved are considered “innocent,” and they can’t be seized.

What Kind of Property Can Be Seized? 

Almost any kind of asset can be seized by the government if it has been connected to or obtained through illegal activity. Physical property such as a home where crimes were committed, a car that was used to transport money or illegal substances, or cell phones that were used to organize a crime are often taken. In some cases, cash obtained in an illegal manner is also seized.

Who Is Most at Risk? 

Some decades ago, forfeiture was mostly used to investigate and stop organized drug crime, but this is no longer the case. Nowadays, both civil and criminal forfeiture are often used to fight white-collar crime. If you’ve been accused of a crime such as money laundering or fraud, speak to a lawyer.

What Happens to Forfeited Assets? 

In Texas, forfeited assets can be kept by the law enforcement agencies that have seized them. They are usually sold, and the proceeds are used to fund equipment, salaries and overtime, facility costs, and more. Unfortunately, this can create an incentive for officers to seize property, even when it is not warranted.

After assets are seized, the property owner has to prove that they obtained their assets legally, often within a very short time frame. This can be a challenge, and it is often impossible to do without the help of a highly trained attorney. As a result, many vulnerable people lose their assets.

What Can I Do If Forfeiture Is Unwarranted? 

If your property has been seized or you believe you’re at risk of forfeiture, contact white-collar crime lawyers in Houston, TX as soon as possible. Your attorneys can evaluate your situation and help you build up a strong case, so you can get your assets back. They might challenge the evidence that your property was involved in a crime, or they might cite your private property rights.

Forfeiture is a process during which the government seizes physical assets or money that was in some way related to a crime. There are two types. Criminal forfeiture occurs after a person has been convicted of a crime and forms part of their punishment, but civil forfeiture is a preventative measure that is used when criminal activity is suspected. Don’t hesitate to get an experienced lawyer involved if your assets have been seized.


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