Civil Forfeiture and Recovering Seized Assets

Law Office of Bret W. Schmidt, PC
Experienced Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney

Civil Asset Forfeiture

Civil Asset Forfeiture, which is sometimes called “Civil Seizure,” is a controversial practice by law enforcement wherein officers seek out and take lawfully-owned property from people by alleging that the property is either the proceeds of illegal activity or that it is intended to be used in illegal activity. The property seized is most often cash, and in many cases, the owner of the property is never charged with a crime.

Moreover, in many cases property is seized without anyone ever being arrested.

Civil forfeiture occurs when the government seizes property under suspicion of its involvement in illegal activity. Such a proceeding is conducted in rem, or against the property itself, rather than in personam, or against the owner of the property; by contrast, criminal forfeiture is an in personam proceeding.”
Legal Information Institute

What happens to money seized by police?

In the year 2020 alone, the Eastern District of Texas collected more than $68 million dollars through civil forfeiture proceedings.

In a 2021 press release, the US District Attorney’s Office described an aggressive approach to “collecting debts for victims of crime” and assured the public that they are “working to ensure that crime victims receive what they are owed.”

“Restitution is paid to the victim; criminal fines and felony assessments are paid to the department’s Crime Victims Fund, which then distributes the funds collected to federal and state victim compensation and assistance programs.”
US District Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Texas

Money seized by police and agents under the Civil Asset Forfeiture rules, however, typically goes to the seizing officers or the agents themselves. Justified as being used to bolster the “fight against crime”, the money is most often converted to bonuses and raises for the seizing officers and agents. Given that the money that officers seize may eventually become their own to keep, the incentive to search for cash during every traffic stop has grown significantly over the years. If they find it, they are going to do and say whatever they need to to keep it.

Although cash is purely legal, and carrying it is lawful in all respects, people who do so have become the unwitting victims of this type of legalized theft by our very own government. It is unwise to carry any significant cash in an airport or while driving; not because one might get mugged, but because one might come into contact with the very people who are meant to “protect and serve”.

Can a police officer take your money from your wallet?

In short, yes. In the event that you are arrested, law enforcement may seize your property, including money, possessions, or vehicles. This is called “civil asset forfeiture” and is extremely prevalent in Texas. In the State of Texas, asset forfeiture is considered a civil proceeding, and is charged against the property itself instead of the owner of the property.

The Process of Civil Asset Forfeiture

Civil forfeiture enables law enforcement agencies to allot seized funds into places in their budgets that they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

How does this work? Well, the government doesn’t bring a specific crime against the property owner when seizing property. Legally, they only have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the property is “contraband” on account of its connection to illegal activity. Once law enforcement seizes the property, it only has to allege that the property is somehow connected to illegal activity. In the case of cash, the police will often bring in a drug detection dog, have it sniff the cash, and, of course, the dog will immediately detect the presence of trace amounts of some type of controlled substance and will alert on the money. And there you have it, the cash is considered “drug proceeds”. Now, the burden of proof shifts to the owner of the property to prove in a court of law that the property seized was not connected to drugs or some other illegal activity.

Police took my money, can I get it back?

Each state has a different standard of proof when it comes to state forfeiture laws. In Texas, prosecutors are merely required to prove that by a preponderance of the evidence that seized property was actually connected to illegal activity. In the event that the prosecutor is successful, seventy percent (70%) of proceeds will ultimately go to law enforcement. Meanwhile the owner of the property has to fight the mighty State and all its resources to prove that the property is legally owned and not connected to criminal activity. So, first they steal your money, and then they use your tax dollars against you as they fight you tooth and nail to keep it.

Standards of proof indicate how crucial it is to have an experienced attorney who understands the rules and procedures of civil forfeiture. Selecting the right attorney can make or break your chances of recovering property that is rightfully yours.

Getting Seized Money Back From Police

If the police have seized your property in a Civil Asset Forfeiture, Dallas attorney Bret Schmidt can help get it back. Many people think that once the police have taken their possessions, it’s up to the police to decide whether or not to give them back. So after their property has been seized, they don’t try to get it back and end up losing everything the police took.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You do have valuable rights to your property, whether or not you are charged with a crime. But you have to act quickly. You will lose your rights to your property if you don’t take immediate action. There are several legal deadlines that the police are just hoping you will overlook, because your property becomes their property without a fight.

If you have had your property seized from you by law enforcement, please let me help you get it back. Contact us today.

Ratings & Reviews

Attorney Bret Schmidt
4.9
Based on 52 reviews
powered by Google
Nicholas M.
Nicholas M.
21:34 21 Feb 20
Bret is an amazing attorney and a great person. He has helped me and my family in so many ways. Not only is he a great lawyer but he truly cares about the people he works with and... wants the best for them. I owe Bret a great deal of gratitude for all he has done for me. I could not recommend him enough.read more
Emily M
Emily M
22:35 17 Feb 20
This guy is the BEST!!!! He is so helpful, HONEST and dependable!! He has helped my family and friends. Bret Schmidt is an outstanding attorney! The justice system is so scary and... intimidating, but if you need help from an honest person and great lawyer, Bret Schmidt is the best one out there! Thanks for all of your help, Bret!! You’re amazing!!read more
Ms. Duwrite Do
Ms. Duwrite Do
20:45 17 Feb 20
I can only say I thank God for blessing me with Bret, he has been more than legal counsel for me he has been my family! He is very considerate and compassionate and truly cares... about your well being, whether you have money or not!! I can only say if you need a great lawyer then you better give Mr. Schmidt a call, you won’t regret it!! Again you were truly God sent!!!!!read more
Rachael Proctor
Rachael Proctor
19:38 17 Feb 20
My husband and I turned to Bret when his probation was almost over, but the amount of Community Service he had was ridiculous for anyone who has to work a normal 8-5. Bret worked... with us, it was cost effective, and he had my husband take care of everything he needed to. We were able to get the Community Service hours waived and expunged of all charges. Well worth it and i wish we didn't wait 9 years to do this! Probably could have cut down probation if we'd have gone this route sooner. Thanks for being an amazing and caring attorney!read more
james opsahl
james opsahl
12:19 17 Feb 20
If I could give Mr. Schmidt a 6 star review I would. He has been my attorney for years, and has always gone the extra mile in his representation of my past issues with the... criminal justice system. Bret (I'll call him that because he is also my friend) not only provided top notch representation for me, he has been instrumental in my return to society and me maintaining sobriety and living life the way it's supposed to be lived. Bret is always available to offer advice and guidance, even though the issues I hired him to represent me on have long passed. I have found that he has concern and empathy for his clients, unlike the majority of criminal lawyers whose main concerns revolve around money. Bret is a strong family man, and a devout Christian. I am proud to call him my friend. A better attorney and man such as Bret is a rarity.read more
See All Reviews

Practice Areas

Criminal Defense

When you stand accused of a crime, your liberty and freedom are at stake. To protect yourself, you need to retain a Dallas criminal defense attorney who has experience with these cases. Bret Schmidt has that experience, and he is ready to help.

Civil Asset Forfeiture

If you had property seized by police in the United States, a criminal defense attorney with experience in Civil Asset Forfeiture can help. Dallas attorney Bret Schmidt has that experience, and he is ready to help you defend your rights.

Law Office of Bret W. Schmidt, PC
900 Jackson Street Suite 635
Dallas, TX 75202

Contact Us