Sunday, February 20, 2011

Don't Let Them Forfeit WhatsYours!

The Government can seize your property even if you did not commit a crime using the state and federal civil forfeiture statutes. Many times the government will take large amounts of cash just because a drug sniffing dog alerted to the money. Contact the Seattle Criminal Lawyers at SQ Attorneys when faced with a forfeiture action.

There are two types of forfeiture available to the government, civil and criminal. Civil forfeiture allows the government to confiscate property used in violation of the law, although no formal charges were ever brought. This confiscation results in the transfer of all right title and interest in the property. There are three types of property which are subject to forfeiture; contraband, proceeds from illegal activity, and tools or instrumentalities used in the commission of a crime. Civil forfeiture actions are legal actions against the property and not against the person or violator in possession of the property. In order to start a civil forfeiture, the government need only establish probable cause that the property was used in the commission of a crime. With that said, if they begin a civil forfeiture action against you, you only have a limited time with which to contest probable cause. If you miss this deadline you lose your right to contest probable cause. The government may seize the property by executing a warrant, and no criminal charge or conviction is required for the government to seize the property. There are over 200 federal forfeiture laws for non-drug related crimes in addition to the drug related crimes. the Seattle Criminal Attorneys at SQ Attorneys can work with you in fighting to get your property returned.

There are two types of proceedings that the government may employ in a forfeiture action. Judicial and administrative hearings, both of which the Washington Criminal Lawyers at SQ Attorneys can handle. An administrative proceeding is conducted by the government agency which seized the property. However, administrative proceedings cannot be employed by the government when the action is contested by the owner of the property. A person can contest the confiscation by filing a claim. When filing a claim, it is recommended that the owner employ the services of an attorney for the simple fact that there are strict deadlines and you must sign the claim under penalty of purgery. During these judicial proceedings the government need only show by a preponderance of the evidence that the property was used in illegal activity. This standard is lower than the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. The property owner is provided a few statutory defenses, however these defense have been interpreted very narrowly by the courts. Often, courts will determine an owners knowledge of criminal activity using an objective standard, not the owner’s actual knowledge. Attorney’s representing clients who have had property confiscated may attack the governments action by arguing, in addition to the statutory defenses, that no crime ever occurred, probable cause is lacking, or that the connection between the crime and the property is too attenuated for the government to demonstrate that it was an instrumentality or proceeds of criminal activity.

Additionally, the Supreme Court has extended all of the rights of the First Amendment free speech for expressive materials, Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure, the Fifth Amendment due process right, and the Eighth Amendment protection against excessive fines to civil forfeiture actions. Lastly, these Constitutional limitations have been applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.

If you or a loved one is cited for committing a crime in King County, Pierce County, Snohomish County, Kitsap County, Thurston County or one of the following cities or towns: Algona, Bellevue, Black Diamond, Bonney Lake, Bothell, Burien, Des Moines, Duvall, Edmonds, Enumclaw, Everett, Federal Way, fife, Hunts Point, Issaquah, Kenmore, Kent, Kirkland, Lake Forest Park, Lake Stevens, Lakewood, Lynnwood, Maple Valley, Marysville, Medina, Mercer Island, Milton, Monroe, Mountlake Terrace, New Castle, Normandy Park, North Bend, Olympia, Puyallup, Redmond, Renton, Sammamish, Sea Tac, Seattle, Shoreline, Snohomish, Sumner, Tacoma, Tukwila, University Place, and/or Woodinville, or any other city or town in Western Washington, call The Criminal Defense Team of SQ Attorneys at (206) 441-0900; (425) 998-8384 for an initial free consultation.

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