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What is Asset Forfeiture?

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), “Asset forfeiture is a powerful tool used by law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, against criminals and criminal organizations to deprive them of their ill-gotten gains through seizure of these assets.”

The FBI goes on to say that asset forfeiture is an “ancient practice” that governments have used for a long time to combat piracy. Today, law enforcement agencies use asset forfeiture to scare wannabe criminals and deter them from taking advantage of the vulnerable for the purpose of financial gain. Such individuals include organized criminals, drug dealers, white collar criminals and terrorists.

Reasons why the FBI uses asset forfeiture:

  • To return stolen assets to innocent victims
  • To punish criminals for taking advantage of others
  • To deter people from committing crimes
  • To cause mayhem within criminal organizations
  • To make it more difficult for criminals to commit crimes
  • To help protect our citizens and communities

Three Types of Asset Forfeiture

In the United States, there are three types of asset forfeiture that are governed by federal law: 1) criminal forfeiture, 2) civil judicial forfeiture, and 3) administrative forfeiture. Criminal forfeiture is an action brought against the person through a criminal prosecution. In this scenario, the defendant can contest the seizure by going to trial.

Unlike a criminal forfeiture, a civil judicial forfeiture does not require that the defendant is convicted in criminal court. Instead, law enforcement can seize property that was somehow involved in a crime. For example, if a car was used during a bank robbery, it can be seized because it was the “getaway car,” and therefore involved in the crime. As with criminal forfeitures, individuals have the right to contest civil forfeitures by going to trial.

According to the FBI, “The majority of federal forfeiture cases are uncontested even if there is a related criminal case. Administrative forfeiture occurs when a property is seized but no one files a claim to contest the seizure.”

Are you facing federal charges? Are you concerned that your assets are going to be seized through one of the above methods? For a hard-hitting legal defense, contact our office to meet with a Plano criminal lawyer!