Under the law, law enforcement has the ability to confiscate property designated as “criminal proceeds” that was used to commit a crime or unlawfully gained from criminal activity. If you are facing criminal asset forfeiture in Texas, it takes an experienced defense attorney to protect your rights. That’s where the Benjamin Law Firm can assist you.
Most assets are seized under Federal Law. In El Paso, this usually happens at the Port of Entry into the United States. We have several Ports of Entry here. The Federal Government can seize cash or vehicles. It has seized airplanes under federal forfeiture law as well. It can seize these assets for failure to fill out the correct registration form.
As a leading defense practice representing clients in Texas, New Mexico, and federally in the United States District Court, we have a proven track record of success in criminal asset forfeiture cases. An example is when the government seized a bank account in El Paso in conjunction with a drug allegation in Colorado. That was a stretch. When the state wrongfully seizes property from innocent people, we know how to fight back. Well-versed in the applicable laws governing asset forfeiture, we will work strategically to help you reclaim your property. Contact our El Paso office today to get started with an experienced criminal asset forfeiture attorney.
About Criminal Asset Forfeiture in Texas
State prosecutors can bring a criminal asset forfeiture action against a defendant in a criminal case by indicting or charging the property used in or derived from the crime along with the defendant. The objective is to help stop criminal activity and prevent the property from being used to commit other crimes.
The court may order the forfeiture of a specific piece of property listed in the indictment, a sum of money as a money judgment, or other property as a substitute. Criminal asset forfeiture is common in criminal cases such as:
- Drug crimes – possession, distribution, trafficking
- Money laundering, embezzlement, and conspiracy
- The illegal sale, manufacture, or storage of weapons
In a drug crimes case, for example, law enforcement will confiscate cash assuming it is a profit from drug sales or related criminal activity.
What Is the Difference Between Seizure and Forfeiture?
Seizure involves the taking of property and assets and occurs before forfeiture. For example, the police can seize marijuana from someone’s vehicle during a traffic stop. Also, authorities will freeze intangible assets, such as bank accounts or credits, to prevent a defendant from having access to the money.
By contrast, forfeiture occurs when a criminal defendant permanently loses ownership of seized property and assets by a court order. Notably, the state only has the power to confiscate property used during the commission of a crime or obtained as a result of criminal activity. Also, the following conditions must be met for the government to property:
- The property owner has been charged with or convicted of a crime
- The confiscation is permitted under Texas law
- There is a strong connection between the criminal act and the property
Asset seizure may not end in forfeiture as long as you have an experienced Texas criminal forfeiture attorney.
How Is Criminal Asset Forfeiture Different From Civil Asset Forfeiture?
Although the terms are used interchangeably, civil asset forfeiture in Texas differs from criminal asset forfeiture. In criminal asset forfeiture cases, the government takes property after obtaining a conviction, so the burden of proof is higher – beyond a reasonable doubt. On the other hand, a criminal charge or conviction is not necessary for civil asset forfeiture. The government must only show (by a preponderance of the evidence) that the defendant used the property to facilitate a crime.
Defenses to Criminal Asset Forfeiture
The most common defense to asset forfeiture is the innocent owner defense: a defendant charged with a crime claims their property should not be forfeited because they are innocent. To raise this defense, you must prove:
- You acquired rights to the property before or during the time the crime was committed, and
- You did not know or should not have had reason to know about the crime being committed
For example, you can raise this defense if you let a friend borrow your car, not knowing they intended to use it for trafficking drugs.
Alternatively, you can also claim that the property in question is not related to a crime. For example, if law enforcement seizes your home, alleging you used it to manufacture drugs, you can attempt to show that you did not use the house to commit a crime. Given the challenges of defending against criminal asset forfeiture, having informed representation is essential.
Contact Our Experienced Criminal Asset Forfeiture Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with a crime and are facing criminal asset forfeiture, turn to the Benjamin Law Firm. As a former prosecutor, Brock Benjamin knows the tactics the state uses to confiscate property and will work to protect your property rights. We handle cases in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and across the great state of Texas. Contact our El Paso office today to discuss your case in confidence.
The Benjamin Law Firm defends people against criminal asset forfeiture throughout Texas.