Asset forfeiture occurs when a person’s assets or property are confiscated by the state, usually after an arrest. Generally, the tool is used by law enforcement agencies hoping to disrupt and deter criminals and criminal organizations by depriving them of their ill-gotten gains.
Under federal law, there are three types of asset forfeiture proceedings. Let’s review each type of forfeiture to give you a better understanding of how law enforcement seizes assets to deter illegal activity and return assets to victims.
What are the three types of asset forfeiture proceedings?
- Criminal forfeiture is an action brought against a defendant by the prosecution in a criminal proceeding. This type of forfeiture requires the state or federal government to indict, or charge, the defendant, and the property used in or obtained during a crime.
In a criminal asset forfeiture case, the property is seized by law enforcement because it was obtained through unlawful actions. During these proceedings, the standard of proof is higher than in civil judicial asset forfeiture, as the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant and property were involved in a crime.
- Civil judicial asset forfeiture differs from criminal forfeiture in that it does not require a criminal conviction. Here asset forfeiture acts as a legal tool that allows law enforcement to seize property that has been involved in a crime. In fact, during a civil asset forfeiture proceeding, the property itself is charged with involvement in the crime. As a result, law enforcement may seize vehicles, homes, and other valuables, along with liquid assets, if they have reason to believe these assets were used to commit a crime.
- During an administrative forfeiture proceeding, a federal agency may seize property without a court ever becoming involved. Administrative forfeiture occurs when property is seized, but nobody files a claim to contest the seizure, and, according to the FBI, “the majority of federal forfeiture cases are uncontested.”
A government agency cannot simply claim any citizen’s property using administrative forfeiture. Usually, property seized through this method includes items that are prohibited from importing to the U.S. or vehicles and transport tools used to move illegal substances. The government may not seize real estate using administrative forfeiture.
When should you consult an attorney?
Usually, an asset forfeiture proceeding will not target citizens who are not involved in organized crime; however, as asset forfeiture may be used to fund law enforcement projects, there is the potential for the tool to be abused. If you believe your property has been seized without cause, you need an experienced Wyoming white collar defense attorney at your side.
Contact us for skilled legal guidance
At Davis & Cannon LLP, we have served Wyoming for more than 70 years, and are prepared to provide you with a legal defense that will secure the best outcome for your case. Call us today at (307) 672-7491 or contact us online for a free and confidential consultation.