We’ve been discussing the issue of asset forfeiture in our last couple posts, mentioning changes that could be coming at the state level and a recent change in forfeiture rules at the federal level. In this post, we’d like to offer a few comments about how an attorney can help property owners in these cases.
First of all, it is important to keep in mind the distinction between civil forfeiture and criminal forfeiture, as well as the fact that forfeiture proceedings can occur at both the state and the federal level. One of the ways an attorney can help in the process is by guiding property owners in the navigation of the court system. Both at the state and federal level, having an understanding of the legal process makes it much easier to build a strong case.
A second—and very important—way an attorney can help is by getting to the meat of the case. This is the issue of whether or not the seized property was involved in a crime. A property owner who wants to contest a seizure must prove that it is more likely than not that the seized property was not connected to criminal activity or that he or she had not actual knowledge of the criminal activity. Because the standard of proof is relatively low and the burden of proof is currently upon the property owner, it can be a challenge to present an effective case on this issue. A skilled attorney can see to it that the evidence is presented in the best possible way.
A third way an attorney can help in forfeiture cases is by seeking to maximize the remedies available for a wrongful seizure.
Needless to say, those who have been subjected to a wrongful seizure should consult an experienced attorney to get the assistance they need to defend their rights.
Institute for Justice, “Asset Forfeiture Report: Maryland,” Accessed March 5, 2015.
Baltimore Post-Examiner, “Maryland law on police seizure of property in drug trade could be restricted,” Feb. 24, 2015.
Washington Post, “Justice clarifies new limits on asset forfeiture involving local, state police,” Robert O’Harrow Jr. & Steven Rich, Feb. 11, 2015.