Criminal Forfeiture is the form of forfeiture that allows the federal government to seize the property of a defendant as part of the criminal prosecution of a defendant. It is an “in personam” action which means that the action is taken against the person action. To exercise this, the government must charge the property used or derived from the crime along with the defendant. The jury is then given the chance to decide if the property is actually forfeitable.
Following the jury’s decision, the court will then issue an order of forfeiture. If forfeiture is related to the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO), or money laundering and obscenity statutes, subordinate hearings must be held so that third parties can assert their interests in the property. Once the issues and interests of the third parties are addressed, a court will issue a final forfeiture order.
Whenever an individual is arrested for an illegal activity such as drug trafficking or money laundering, their property can be confiscated as well. In one instance, the police can confiscate property because it has been used in the process of an illegal activity.
For example, if a person is selling drugs and uses a car to move the drugs from Point A to Point B, the car can be confiscated as something of an accomplice to the crime. In other situations, the law enforcement officials of the area might confiscate the car or boat because it was purchased with the proceeds that stem from an illegal activity. If a house is purchased with the profits from selling drugs or being a hit-man, the house can be confiscated.
Civil Judicial Forfeiture is an “in rem” action brought in court against a property. This means that the prosecution is against the property itself and criminal charges against the owner are not necessary. Judicial action is necessary for this area of forfeiture.
In Administrative Forfeiture, also an “in rem” action, the federal agency that wants to seize property can do so without judicial action. This area of forfeiture was permitted by the Tariff Act of 1930. Property that can be seized includes: merchandise whose importation is prohibited; a vehicle or conveyance of some sort used to import, transport, or store a controlled substance; a monetary instrument; and other property that does not exceed $500,000 in value.
While the laws may seem somewhat reasonable, there have been reports over the years of federal seizing agencies seizing property unreasonably.
If your property has been seized with or without a forfeiture order, contact the Tampa & Clearwater federal forfeiture criminal lawyers of the Law Offices of Tragos, Sartes & Tragos, PLLC to discuss the details of your case and determine the best way to get your property back.