Individuals who are under investigation for a crime or have been convicted of criminal activity may face forfeiture of certain assets in addition other possible penalties. Most states recognize civil and criminal asset forfeiture. A key difference between the two is that criminal forfeiture occurs as one of many potential penalties imposed upon an offender, while civil forfeiture is an action taken against the property itself.
Technically, Florida only has civil asset forfeiture, but the legal standard for authorities to proceed with such an action is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Not only could residents be subject to asset forfeiture if the property is believed to be connected to a crime, but state authorities sometimes find workarounds by partnering with federal law enforcement to bring criminal or civil forfeiture actions.
A Lake County criminal asset forfeiture lawyer could help if you have had assets seized or have been notified of such a pending action.
While proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the current standard in Florida for law enforcement to seize property they believe is connected to illegal activity, this was not always the case. Up until recently, that standard was a much looser threshold, and law enforcement only had to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that they believed the assets were tied to a crime. Another key requirement for law enforcement to seize any non-monetary assets is that the owner must already have been placed under arrest for a criminal offense. If law enforcement is unable to demonstrate the forfeiture was conducted in accordance with the applicable standards, they must pay the owner of the seized assets the required bond and filing fee.
Seized assets must be delivered from forfeiture if there is no probable cause for the forfeiture. The court must evaluate the forfeiture action within 10 days, and if they find no probable cause that the assets were involved with criminal activity, those assets must be remanded back to the owner within five days.
Criminal asset forfeiture is a convoluted process, and it is important to secure representation from a Lake County attorney who is familiar with these investigations on both the state and federal level. An attorney could leverage all applicable defenses to overreaching or unlawful forfeiture actions.
Despite the legal framework in place, the fact that state and federal forfeiture proceedings can occur simultaneously might subject individuals to overly broad seizures carried out under different legal standards. Even when forfeiture proceedings are confined to the jurisdiction of a given state, abuses of contraband laws still occur far too often.
One well-publicized example is an asset seizure and forfeiture case involving a man named Tyson Timbs who was arrested and plead guilty to selling heroin. The penalties included probation, fines, and house arrest. However, the authorities had also seized his Land Rover, even though the car was bought using life insurance proceeds after Timbs’ father died, and was not purchased using drug money.
Mr. Timbs took legal action, and the case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, who found that seizure by authorities was actually a violation of excessive fines clause of the Eighth amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Any item that is believed to be connected to alleged criminal activity or was purchased due to that activity could be caught up in a forfeiture proceeding, making it vital to have a Lake County attorney who could launch timely and forceful challenges to such proceedings. These assets could include homes, land, vehicles, boats, bank accounts, cash, investment accounts, jewelry, artwork, and any other type of property that is believed to be linked to a crime.
A Lake County criminal asset forfeiture lawyer understands what is at stake and the hurdles that you are facing right now. You need to have a trusted defense attorney on your side to protect your rights and interests, and push back against instances where the government oversteps.
Seizure and forfeiture proceedings are extremely complex and can become more so depending on the nature of the assets involved, what criminal activity is alleged, and whether state or federal authorities are involved. To speak with a law firm about your asset forfeiture case, contact our office today and schedule a confidential legal consultation.
The Umansky Law Firm Criminal Defense & Injury Attorneys