How Civil Forfeiture Results in Assets Being Taken

Posted on Jun 24, 2015 in Criminal Defense

In 2014, agencies of the Justice Department made $3.9 billion from seizing assets. This money came from civil asset seizures. By contrast, the agencies of the Justice Department made just $679 million in criminal asset seizures.

Civil asset forfeiture is a controversial practice because the government does not have to charge you with a crime, much less convict you of wrongdoing, in order to take your money. There is also no requirement the government prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Washington Post reported on one specific case that shows how civil asset forfeiture can affect an innocent person, but there are many more such stories that occur over the course of the year. If the government seizes your assets through civil forfeiture, you need to be proactive and begin fighting for your rights right away. A New Orleans criminal defense law firm can help you fight the loss of your assets so you can try to get your money or property returned to you.

The Possibility of Losing Your Money and Other Assets is Real

The Washington Post told the story of a civil asset forfeiture that occurred when a young man was taking a train from Detroit to Los Angeles. He had $16,000 with him, which he hoped to use to fulfill a lifelong dream of creating a music video company in Los Angeles. He brought the money, which was his life savings, in cash because he had previously had a difficult time withdrawing large amounts of cash from bank accounts out of state.

While he was on his train journey, an agent from the Drug Enforcement Agency boarded the train and began questioning passengers. The young man told the agents he was going to Los Angeles to make a music video and the agents asked to search his bags. When he agreed, the agents found the money. The young man told the agents where it had come from and even said they could call his mother in order to confirm his story.

Despite no evidence to suggest any criminal wrongdoing, the DEA agents indicated that they believed the money came from some type of drug activities. No drugs, no guns and nothing incriminating was found in the young man’s baggage, yet they took every dollar of his $16,000.

Like many who have their assets taken in a civil forfeiture, this young man faced an uphill legal battle to try to recover his funds. There is no presumption of innocence and whenever a law enforcement officer has a suspicion of wrongdoing — even a vague one — it is possible for money and assets to be taken. Police have cited things like trash in a vehicle, tinted windows and air fresheners in the car in past civil asset forfeiture cases in order to justify taking people’s money and property.

If you have your assets seized, it is imperative that you are proactive in trying to recover them. Contact a criminal defense law firm in New Orleans as soon as possible to help you fight to get your funds returned and provide assistance if you also face any underlying criminal charges in connection with the forfeiture.

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