States and the federal government have “made” more than $68.8 Billion over the past 20 years. Texas alone has forfeited is $781 million dollars in assets. Forfeiture is when the government comes and takes your property, whether it is money or property. Forfeiture law is a mix of criminal, civil, admiralty and common law. Because of these complications not every lawyer can effectively hand a forfeiture matter. The MajorLaw Firm has successfully handled forfeiture matters involving bulk cash, homes, cars and securities.
Some of our successful representations include:
• Represented an international businessman who was stopped with more than $10,000 in cash at the Houston Hobby airport.
• Obtained a full recovery of the currency in an administrative proceeding before Customs and Border Patrol.
• Obtained the recovery of a tractor trailer on behalf of trucking company. The DEA sought administrative forfeiture alleging that the business owner knew the truck was being used by an individual driver to smuggle contraband.
• Obtained 80% recovery of bulk currency seized in highway stop. The government alleged that the currency were the proceeds of drug trafficking through historic documents we showed the proceeds were earnings.
• Obtained declination of money laundering prosecution involving over $200,000 seized by the DEA.
You do not have to be a kingpin for the government to attempt to forfeit your property. The government knows that most people rarely hire a lawyer and attempt to recover their property. Thus, it is imperative that you call the Major Law Firm and speak with a forfeiture litigation attorney today. There are often deadlines for you to exercise your rights.
At the federal level, most forfeitures are processed administratively. The government contends that forfeiture is intended to punish and deter criminal activity by depriving criminals of property used in or acquired through illegal activities; to promote and enhance cooperation among federal state, local, tribal, and foreign law enforcement agencies; to recover assets that may be used to compensate victims when authorized under federal law. But these goals are often times not accomplished by civil forfeiture.
When an asset is seized it is restrained from its owner or possessor and the government takes control pending the outcome of a court proceeding. Generally, seizures occur incident to an arrest, pursuant to a search warrant, pursuant to a civil or criminal seizure warrant or pursuant to a preliminary order of forfeiture. 18 U.S.C. § 981(b), 21 U.S.C. §§ 881, and 21 U.S.C. § 853 govern the authorization of seizure warrants of assets for forfeiture. Law enforcement must obtain authority for seizures from a federal magistrate. The seizure warrant must be based on sworn affidavit that describes in detail the property items to be seized and evidence that items are subject to forfeiture.
Generally, the government will seek to forfeit property that has equity. For example, for real property and vacant land the government seeks property with a minimum net equity of $30,000 or 20% of the appraised value. For vehicles the net equity must be at least $5000 based on the National Automobile Dealers Association “trade-in value.” For cash the minimum amount needs to be at least $5,000 absent criminal prosecution. Civil forfeiture proceedings are against the piece of property itself not against the owner. This is referred to as proceeding in rem.
A criminal forfeiture proceeding operates differently. Criminal forfeiture proceeding occur in personam. Unlike a civil forfeiture proceeding, criminal forfeiture proceedings allow the possession of the asset to remain with the defendant. However, the government may get a lis pendens against any assets that are could be transferred. A lis pendens is a notice that there is a pending action against an asset. Ordinarily, the government will seek to seize the property subject to forfeiture before a preliminary order of forfeiture is entered. Criminal forfeiture is intended to punish a criminal defendant and divest them of the proceeds of illegal activity.
The Major Law Firm can help you recover your seized assets including:
• Certificates of deposit
• Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)account
• Interest On Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA)
• Life Insurance
• Money orders
• Personal, certified and cashier’s checks
• Prepaid access devices
• Travelers’ checks
• U.S. savings bonds
• Residential and Commercial Properties
If you have had your assets seized by either state, local, or the federal government call the forfeiture litigation attorney at the Major Law Firm today.