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Beware of Civil Asset Forfeiture

Civil forfeiture

When defendants get convicted of financial crimes such as embezzlement, identity theft, or money laundering, the court may order them to forfeit property that they acquired as a direct result of their criminal activities; it might also order them to pay restitution, which they pay compensation to reimburse the people to whom they caused financial harm, similarly to when civil courts order defendants to pay damages to plaintiffs. The right not to receive a criminal penalty without having been convicted of a crime is among the most fundamental legal rights, and yet courts have the right to order defendants to remain in jail until their trials under certain circumstances. Likewise, the process of civil asset forfeiture enables police officers to confiscate property that they reasonably suspect is connected to a crime, even before anyone has been convicted of the crime to which the property is allegedly connected. Civil forfeiture is just one of the many unpleasant things that can happen when you are facing criminal charges, even though the Bill of Rights operates on the premise that you are innocent until proven guilty. 

To protect yourself against violation of your rights, contact a Texas white-collar crime lawyer.

Evidence in a Pending Case, or Just a Case of Police Helping Themselves to People’s Private Property?

Civil asset forfeiture is when police confiscate property that they believe is connected to a crime. For example, they might allege that the defendant stole the property or that the defendant bought the property with the proceeds of illegal activities such as fraud, drug trafficking, sex trafficking, or illegal gambling. The assets confiscated can include cash, cryptocurrencies, and valuable items such as jewelry or vehicles. In one currently pending case, police confiscated the defendants’ memorabilia collection, which included movie props, collectible figurines, and limited edition toys.

Sometimes, there are valid reasons for the state to hold onto your stuff while your case is pending. For example, it is legal for the court to order a defendant to pay bail money as a condition of being released from jail, as long as the bail amount is not excessive. Likewise, the police can seize valuable items such as cars, computers, and mobile phones when these are key pieces of evidence in a criminal prosecution. If the state is holding onto the devices, the defendant does not have the opportunity to tamper with them before the trial.

The trouble with civil asset forfeiture is how hard it is to get your stuff back. Civil asset forfeiture works like a civil lawsuit in which your stuff is a defendant. Most people simply don’t have the resources to fight for the return of the stuff that police wrongfully confiscated or were supposed to give back, especially defendants represented by public defenders. This is one of many reasons why you should hire a criminal defense lawyer.

Contact the Law Office of Patrick J. McLain, PLLC About Criminal Defense Cases

Dallas criminal defense lawyer can help protect your rights during all phases of your case. Contact the Law Office of Patrick J. McLain, PLLC, in Dallas, Texas, to discuss your case.

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