What is Civil Asset Forfeiture?
During a criminal investigation, law enforcement can seize any privately owned assets they reasonably believe to have been involved in the crime, including assets purchased with funds obtained through illegal means. This is known as civil asset forfeiture. You can file a claim with the court to try to get your property back. The most effective way to do this is to work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
Can My Property be Taken Even if I am Not a Suspect?
Yes. Any item reasonably believed to have been involved in a criminal offense may be seized by law enforcement. For example, a car that law enforcement believes was used to transport illegal drugs may be seized. The car’s registered owner might not be the one charged with drug trafficking.
How Do Police Decide if Items Were Likely Used in a Crime?
Within 14 days of making a seizure, the court must determine whether there is probable cause to believe the seized assets are related to a criminal act. The court determines this by examining the facts about the case. For example, a bank account believed to be full of drug trafficking proceeds might have its history traced to see when money entered the account. A house believed to be the site of a drug manufacturing operation may be similarly investigated.
Can I Get My Property Back?
Yes. You can respond to law enforcement’s notification that your seized property is under court review to determine if there is probable cause to believe it is somehow linked to an alleged criminal act.
The burden of proof for determining that an item could have been involved in a crime is lower than the burden of proof for convicting a suspect; therefore, understand that even if the associated charges are dropped, law enforcement may keep your items. In order to recover your possessions this way, you must prove one or more of the following, depending on the applicable facts about the case:
- Were not involved in the alleged criminal act;
- Did not know about the alleged criminal act;
- Legally purchased the item;
- Did not know the police took the item from the individual who sold it to you;
- Did not benefit from the alleged criminal act; and
- You are not holding property for the individual charged with the crime.
Work with an Experienced Geneva Criminal Defense Lawyer
Having your property taken to be used in a criminal investigation can be a shock. When your property is taken, you need to be proactive about getting it back if you ever want to see it again. Work with an experienced Naperville criminal defense lawyer to learn more about civil asset forfeiture and how you can try to get your assets back. Contact our team at Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC today to get started with your initial legal consultation.