It’s bad enough when you commit a crime and have to pay the price, but what’s worse is that the government takes your toys as an additional punishment. This, of course, is known as asset forfeiture.
A large number of crimes are considered ‘racketeering offenses.’ Most common among them are drug distribution offenses and white collar crimes. When someone is charged with a racketeering offense, the proceeds of the offense can be held for forfeiture. As an example, a marijuana dealer caught with thousands of dollars in cash can have that money seized for forfeiture. An individual accused of federal wire fraud charges can have their house seized if it can be shown that it was bought with the fruits of the crime.
What are Substitute Assets?
Sometimes, the police can’t figure out where the money went. There are no houses, cars, bank accounts, or other valuable property used in the commission of the offense that they’d like to get their grubby little hands on. That’s when they look to find substitute assets.
Like their namesake, these assets are a substitute for the ones that the police cannot find. For example, if it can be shown that a person was involved in a drug conspiracy which sold $1,000,000 in marijuana, but only $10,000.00 can be seized from bank accounts, the remaining amount can be sought through substitute assets. This means that assets, that have nothing to do with a crime can be still be seized.
Does Asset Forfeiture Constitute Double Jeopardy?
Regrettably, the answer is no. Asset forfeitures are generally civil and not criminal in nature, even though they may arise out of criminal conduct. Asset forfeitures are in rem in nature, which means that the action of seizing them is actually a lawsuit against the property itself, as opposed to the owner.
Asset forfeitures do not constitute double jeopardy as they can be brought independently of a criminal case. Historically, even if there is not enough proof to get a criminal conviction beyond a reasonable doubt, the forfeiture proceeding can still continue as the burden of proof is by a preponderance of evidence-the standard used in civil cases.
Don't Let Your Property Get Swept Away – Hire an Arizona Forfeiture Lawyer
We have helped dozens of people get property back that has been seized from them via asset forfeiture. From innocent travelers arriving at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport with cash on them to business owners whose livelihood has been seized, we employ a systematic and methodical approach to dissecting the government’s forfeiture case to get our clients’ property rightfully restored to them. We often handle these cases on a contingency basis – meaning that we take a percentage of the recovery only – so long as the client remains responsible for any out of pocket costs, as is required by Arizona ethical rules.
If you’ve had substantial property seized from you by prosecutors or police, contact Jason Lamm for a private and confidential consultation. We can be reached at (602) 663-9100 during normal business hours. Because there are strict timelines associated with forfeiture claims, every day counts. Call today.