State and federal criminal investigations can lead to the confiscation of property and assets used to facilitate the criminal activity, acquired with the proceeds of criminal wrongdoing or are the result of the commission of a crime. For example, assets that are purchased with the proceeds of a drug crime are frequently seized. An owner of property can become the target of government forfeiture of assets proceedings even without being convicted of committing a crime.
Asset forfeiture cases brought by the government are either civil or criminal. Civil forfeiture involves a lawsuit filed against the property the government is attempting to seize. The owner of the property is not the direct target of the lawsuit. The owner becomes merely a claimant asserting an interest in the property, so the owner does not have to be guilty of criminal conduct.
Criminal forfeiture is usually sought by the government as part of the sentence imposed following the criminal conviction of the owner of the property. Most asset forfeiture cases are civil.
Federal law requires the government to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that it is entitled to seize the property. Typical assets that the government can go after under civil or criminal forfeiture laws include:
Property that is successfully seized by the government is usually sold with the proceeds distributed to law enforcement agencies to fund programs and enforcement initiatives. Some seized assets, such as cars, boats and homes, are used by law enforcement agencies in undercover investigations.
Because civil asset forfeiture does not require a criminal conviction, a person without knowledge of any criminal wrongdoing could receive notification of the government’s intention to seize assets. This might happen when a third party who might have purchased or contributed to the purchase of the asset used money obtained through criminal conduct.
A person who is the target of a government forfeiture proceeding is entitled to a hearing. Houston criminal defense lawyer Rand Mintzer is a skilled litigator who understands that most asset forfeiture cases do not entail the filing of criminal charges by the government. In such cases, a defense strategy establishing that the property owner was not aware of the illegal source of the asset or the funds could entitle the owner to retain the asset.
Mr. Mintzer uses his criminal defense experience and skills in criminal forfeiture cases to challenge the prosecution’s case theory and the evidence. Weakening the criminal case against the accused can lead to negotiated settlements in which the owner retains the targeted property.
If you are under investigation by state or federal law enforcement agencies, you should get in touch with Rand Mintzer to begin working to protect your rights, freedom and property. Call 713-862-8880 to set up an appointment with Rand Mintzer, Attorney at Law.