Civil Forfeiture and Recovering Seized Assets
Law Office of Bret W. Schmidt, PC
Experienced Civil Forfeiture Attorney
Civil Forfeiture of Assets
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 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, civil forfeiture of assets 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
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?
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.
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.