History of Asset Forfeiture
The Department of Justice’s National Assets Seizure and Forfeiture Fund was first established in 1985 and resulted in seizures of $27 million from drug-related forfeitures the first year. The seizure totals climbed to $875 million by 1992, and to over $4 billion by 2014. As a result, asset forfeiture has become a weapon yielded by the government in their efforts to punish individuals convicted of crimes. Additionally, asset forfeiture funds the government’s law enforcement operations with money derived from forfeited property.
In today’s legal system, asset forfeiture may occur not just as part of a property owner’s criminal conviction, but also in cases where criminal charges are never brought or proven. The U.S. Supreme Court has even upheld forfeiture statutes allowing “civil forfeiture” against innocent property owners.
Criminal and Civil forfeiture laws operate differently, but both are guided by the concept that the forfeitable assets were derived from criminal activity or facilitated it. Criminal forfeiture is considered part of the property owner’s punishment, occurring only after a criminal conviction. However, civil forfeiture does not require a criminal conviction against the owner of the confiscated property. Civil forfeiture laws on controversial and have been criticized as an unconstitutional assault on private property rights.
Criminal forfeiture requires a criminal conviction. As part of the offender’s punishment for their conduct, the government confiscates (1) assets or property that facilitated the crime, (2) the proceeds of the crime, and/or (3) substitute assets.
Civil forfeiture proceedings target property involved in an illegal activity specified by the statute, premised on the theory that the property itself, and not the owner, has violated the law.
Administrative forfeiture occurs when the government seizes property that no person properly “claims” before a specified claim deadline expires. If the seized property is so “abandoned,” its title passes to the government without the matter ever being litigated in court.
Forfeiture Claims Deadlines
If a person receives notice of civil or administrative forfeiture, they have a limited amount of time to respond as the claim deadlines are strictly enforced. Failing to timely respond results in a waiver of that individual’s claims against the property seized. Different procedures apply and different deadlines govern the time a property owner has to respond. Those timelines also depend on whether the notice is governed by federal or state law, and whether it is civil or criminal in nature.
If you receive such a notice, immediately contact Haas Law at 407-755-7675. By teaming with our experience, you can determine if you are eligible to file a valid property recovery claim. Filing a careless claim may subject you to criminal prosecution and having an experienced attorney can help you navigate through the legal issues.