Civil asset forfeiture is an action that can be taken by state or federal authorities, even if someone has not been formally charged with a crime in some cases. If law enforcement believes property in your possession is in some way connected with a crime, it could be subject to civil forfeiture. It is important to make sure you have an asset seizure and forfeiture attorney on your side if you are facing this action.
Up until recently, law enforcement in Florida only had to show that the property in question was tied to criminal activity by clear and convincing evidence in order to initiate civil forfeiture proceedings. Now, the standard is “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
There are still considerable gaps in these laws, and people who are under investigation for alleged criminal activity or who have not been arrested at all may be caught up in illegitimate or unfairly broad actions. A Lake County civil asset forfeiture lawyer could aggressively champion your rights in seeking the best possible results for your case.
Criminal and civil asset forfeiture proceedings are different, both in terms of the procedures involved and the courts that hear these cases. A criminal forfeiture proceeding typically occurs as part of an action taken against a defendant who has been convicted of a crime. On the other hand, a civil forfeiture action is carried out against the property rather than an individual defendant, and these assets can be seized in some cases even if the owner has not been arrested or charged with a crime.
In the state of Florida, civil forfeiture is the only type of forfeiture action recognized. However, these proceedings sometimes take place at the same time as federal forfeiture actions, which can be civil or criminal in nature. Florida law also requires civil forfeiture proceedings meet a criminal burden of proof, which is to say that law enforcement must provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the assets are somehow linked to a crime.
State law also only allows authorities to seize non-monetary assets if the owner has actually been arrested for alleged criminal activity. Multiple hearings take place before and after forfeiture actions to evaluate that the proceedings are conducted on the basis of probable cause. If the court finds there was no probable cause underpinning the forfeiture action, the assets must be returned to the owner. Individuals whose assets have been seized can contest these actions.
However, these proceedings happen within short windows of time, and challenging an asset seizure is not only a difficult process but must be conducted promptly or else the individual might lose their right to do so. If someone is dealing with a civil asset forfeiture action, they should contact a Lake County attorney immediately to assess all available legal options.
A Lake County attorney could help individuals fighting back against multiple types of civil asset forfeiture. Assets including real and personal property, cash, firearms, weapons, or any other items that is believed to be linked to a crime, or was derived from proceeds of a crime, could be covered in a civil forfeiture action.
However, there can be numerous possible defenses to certain elements of a forfeiture action or to the entire proceeding. Lack of adequate notice about a forfeiture proceeding can be a possible defense. If the owner can show that the search was conducted without probable cause, or that the forfeiture violates the excessive fines clause of the Eighth amendment, these could also be potentially viable defenses.
There may be multiple available defenses you can use to push back against a forfeiture action. A Lake County civil asset forfeiture lawyer could identify the most effective defenses and pinpoint any violations that may have caused an illegal seizure of the assets.
Even if the authorities had legal cause to seize certain assets, it is also common for assets that have nothing to do with the actions to be caught up in these proceedings. An experienced defense attorney could help preserve your interests and fight back against illegal or broad-reaching forfeiture actions. Call The Umansky Law Firm today to speak with an attorney about your asset forfeiture case.
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