Civil forfeiture is a lesser-known law enforcement tool used to seize property they believe has been or will be involved in a crime. Property subject to civil forfeiture ranges from cash to homes. An Austin criminal lawyer can argue your case to have your seized property returned.
What assets can law enforcement seize?
The baseline to seize property is suspicion of involvement in a crime. These assets are commonly seized during routine traffic stops. Remember, an officer may not search your vehicle without a warrant or probable cause. If an officer asks if they may search your car, you have the right to refuse. However, if you consent and the officer discovers contraband, your car can be seized. It’s that easy.
Generally, the assets seized include:
- cash and other financial assets
- cars, motorcycles, trucks, boats
- weapons and firearms
- cellphones and computers
- homes and property
- controlled substances
- drug paraphernalia
Is a warrant required to seize my property?
No. In Texas, law enforcement doesn’t necessarily need a warrant to seize your property. An officer may lawfully seize your property with probable cause. Large sums of money have been deemed suspicious and law enforcement routinely and successfully seizes large sums of money on the suspicion it will be used to purchase drugs.
Law enforcement is then required to submit paperwork to the county, asking the DA to file a lawsuit that would allow a transfer of property ownership, known as a forfeiture lawsuit.
Who is on trial?
It’s important to note, it is not you who will be on trial rather your seized belongings are. You, the property owner, are not charged with a crime; instead, your belongings are. Even if any charges against you were dropped or you were acquitted, law enforcement is entitled to keep your property. Absurd? We agree.
So, what happens to your seized property? By law, law enforcement is entitled to sell the property and may retain up to 100% of the proceeds. Generally, law enforcement uses civil forfeiture proceeds to fill in the gaps in their budget on bonuses, salaries, overtime, facility costs, equipment, and, our favorite, “miscellaneous fees.”
You might be thinking, “how much could they be making, though?” Statewide, over $100 million in assets are seized annually, majorly from suspects. Not convicts. Not even necessary people who have been charged with a crime. Suspects.
Civil forfeiture was originally designed to bring down large crime organizations. However, over the years, there have been growing instances of overreach and an overly broad application of the law. Clearly, law enforcement has a questionable incentive to seize property that literally goes into their wallets. Questions have arisen that law enforcement is engaging in “policing for profit” by routinely relying on civil forfeiture as a source of income. Nevertheless, the law remains.
The burden is on the property owner to prove their property’s innocence. Under civil forfeiture laws, your property is guilty until proven innocent. The only way to have your property returned is to successfully defend your right to your property. Unfortunately, most civil forfeiture cases go uncontested, which of course, awards the state the winning default judgment. Our Austin criminal lawyer is here to make sure that doesn’t happen to you. Contact us for a free consultation & we’ll strategize to defend your property rights.
To find out how we can help you, contact an Austin Criminal Lawyer at 512-400-7070 or send us a message for expert Civil Forfeiture defense. We will schedule an initial client consultation to review your case details and lay out a game plan for your assault case in Texas. AZ Law Firm will pursue the legal action necessary to secure the fairest possible outcome for you and your loved ones.
- evaluating and explaining to you the pros and cons of your individual case
- discussing with you any available options and our proposed strategies as it relates to your case
- providing guidance and recommendations regarding any proposed settlement offer
- quickly and effectively communicating with you during each step of the process so that you are not left in the dark
- taking your case solely on a contingent fee basis
- and aggressively protecting and defending your rights
We understand times are tough and that there probably hasn’t been a tougher time in your life. Although we could get away with charging exuberant amounts, we prefer not to as we are a law firm by the people, for the people. We do not want you to worry about whether you can afford to hire an attorney to protect and defend your rights. Call us and be surprised at the quality you receive compared to what other law firms will quote you!
Accordingly, the attorneys at AZ Law Firm will always provide you with a free initial consultation. During this initial consultation, our Austin criminal lawyer will evaluate your case, inform you of any legal options that may be available, and allow you to ask any questions that you may have. AZ Law Firm offers affordable rates for all our clients and will work with you on payment plans. Our firm accepts checks, debit cards, and most major credit cards to cover the costs of your legal representation.