Civil Forfeiture (Federal and Arizona)
Civil forfeiture is a legal process that allows law enforcement agencies, both at the state and federal levels, to seize property that they believe has been involved in or derived from criminal activity. These are known as in rem proceedings, meaning it is an action against property. While intended to combat crime, civil forfeiture has raised concerns about its potential for abuse, leading to innocent individuals losing their hard-earned property.
In 2018, the 42 states with forfeiture laws had forfeited $3,000,000,000 in assets. It might surprise you to learn that much of the revenue that is generated from forfeiture ends up directly benefiting police departments around the country. More troubling is that the federal government incentivizes local governments to seize property on their behalf and ultimately kicks 80% of the proceeds back to them. For more reading on this, See Policing for Profit, Institute for Justice.
Civil Forfeiture in Arizona:
- Process Overview: In Arizona, civil forfeiture typically involves the state seizing property believed to be connected to criminal activity. See Arizona Revised Statutes §13-2314. This process can occur independently of any criminal charges, making it distinct from criminal forfeiture. Ultimately, prosecutors must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the property is connected to a crime.
- Challenges: The state’s power to seize property without a criminal conviction has raised concerns about due process and property rights. Innocent individuals may find themselves entangled in the complex process of trying to reclaim their property.
- Legal Assistance: We, as experienced criminal lawyers well-versed in federal litigation, understand the challenges posed by civil forfeiture in Arizona. We are here to assist professional clients in their efforts to regain wrongfully seized property.
Federal Civil Forfeiture:
The mission of the Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program is to “use asset forfeiture as a tool to deter, disrupt, and dismantle criminal enterprises, denying them the instruments and the proceeds of criminal activity.” Curiously, however, the Institute for Justice found that half of the Department of Justice’s currency forfeitures are for less than $12,090, leading to the inference that ordinary citizens are subjected to forfeiture more frequently than “criminal enterprises.” See Asset Forfeiture Policy Manual, Department of Justice; Policing for Profit, Institute for Justice.
- Scope: Federal civil forfeiture laws extend the government’s authority to seize property in cases involving federal crimes, such as drug trafficking, organized crime, and financial fraud.
- Potential for Abuse: Concerns have arisen regarding the potential for abuse, where innocent property owners can become unintended victims of government action. Federal civil forfeiture allows the government to seize property with relatively low burdens of proof compared to criminal cases.
- Legal Advocacy: Our experience in federal litigation positions us to assist clients facing federal civil forfeiture actions. We advocate for the rights of our professional clients who may find themselves caught up in a complex legal process aimed at asset forfeiture.
Protecting Your Property Rights: Our Commitment
We recognize the potential for abuse in civil forfeiture cases, and we are dedicated to helping professional clients protect their property rights. Our legal expertise extends beyond criminal defense into areas where individuals may be unjustly impacted by government actions.
If you or someone you know is facing civil forfeiture, whether at the state or federal level, we offer our support and legal guidance. Our goal is to assist in the process of reclaiming wrongfully seized property and ensuring that innocent individuals are not unjustly deprived of their hard-earned assets.